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Cambodia parliament votes to limit mass demonstrations

[JURIST] The Cambodian National Assembly [official website] approved legislation Wednesday banning demonstrations of more than 200 people. The bill, which passed [Phnom Penh Post report] Cambodia's lower house by a vote of 76-25, would also ban any gathering inside or outside the gates of factories or government buildings, and would require groups to obtain permission for planned demonstrations a minimum of 12 hours in advance. Officials from the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) [party website] described the bill as an initiative to enhance security and public order. The opposition Sam Rainsy Party [party website] said that the legislation is a pretext to limit free speech [AFP report] and stifle dissent. The bill must be approved by the Cambodian Senate and King Norodom Sihamoni [official websites] before becoming law.

Earlier this month, the National Assembly approved [Phnom Penh Post report] a measure criminalizing defamation and insult, which was also opposed on free speech grounds. In August, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia Surya Subedi [official profile] said that Cambodian restrictions on free speech were inconsistent [press release, PDF] with international standards. Subedi's comments came after the conviction [JURIST report] of opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua on charges that he defamed Prime Minister Hun Sen [official profile]. By way of contrast, the South Korean Constitutional Court [official website, in Korean] overturned a ban on nighttime assemblies last month, ruling it to be an unconstitutional violation of the right to free assembly. South Korea's Assembly and Demonstration law was enacted in 1962, also under the auspices of protecting national security and public order.

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