PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia is building a small park to accommodate demonstrators, but would-be protesters criticize the project as a means to throttle dissent by keeping them far from government offices.
Democracy Square is 70 percent complete and should be finished by the end of September, said Sam Samuth, chief of Phnom Penh’s Municipal garden bureau, on Thursday.
The 60-by-200 meter (200-by-650 foot) site is very close to the U.S. Embassy and Wat Phnom, a famous old Buddhist temple that historically marks the city’s center but is not near any major government offices, such as the seat of government and the National Assembly.
It is about a mile (1.6 kilometers) north of a park across from the old parliament building that has been the most popular venue for political and social protests, some of which authorities ended with force.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, who has been active in staging demonstrations, says the purpose of the site _ also known as Freedom Park _ is to muffle protesters’ voices.
“I think the location of the Freedom Park is not the right place for demonstrators to show their concern. I _ and other protesters _ would not stage a demonstration at a place where no one will be heard,” Rong Chhun said.
The park, built where the headquarters of the military police used to be, will have no special facilities except for eight public toilets.
The government of Prime Minister Hun Sen is democratically elected but tries to limit dissent, often through legal means such as lawsuits. Journalists, human rights activists, opposition lawmakers and other critics have been convicted or jailed for defaming Hun Sen and his allies.
In October 2009, Cambodia’s parliament approved a bill banning demonstrations by more than 200 people. The law also requires protesters to seek official permission five days ahead of a planned rally.
During the debate, lawmakers from the country’s main opposition party, the Sam Rainsy Party, described the law as a clear setback for Cambodia’s democracy.
Source: according yahoo.com