Cambodia's parliament passes controversial demonstration law

PHNOM PENH, Oct 21 (AFP) - Cambodia's parliament on Wednesday passed a controversial law restricting the size of demonstrations, a measure the opposition said would be used by authorities to stifle free speech.

The "peaceful demonstrations law" passed with 76 of the 101 lawmakers in attendance at Cambodia's National Assembly voting in favour of the new measures. No opposition lawmakers voted in favour of the bill.

A copy of the draft law said it would restrict the size of protests to 200 people, and was aimed at ensuring "public order and national security".

The law will also ban any gathering inside or outside the gates of factories or government buildings, according to the draft.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said the law was an "excuse to ban people from holding demonstrations" and a move by the ruling Cambodian People's Party to curb free speech.

"The law (will) ban the people's freedom of expression," he said, warning that in the near future he would hold a large protest against Cambodians being illegally evicted from their land.

"The government is trying to eliminate demonstrations and people's rights," Sam Rainsy added.

Kem Sokha, leader of opposition Human Rights Party, echoed Sam Rainsy's remarks, saying the law would allow authorities to "crack down on protesters".

The law will take effect after receiving approval from Cambodia's Senate and promulgation from King Norodom Sihamoni, which are both considered formalities. (AFP)

MySinchew 2009.10.21