ASEAN Grassroots Peoples Assembly
“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.” – Max de Pree
It is with great sorrow and disappointment that the Cambodian Cross-Sector Network has to announce the cancellation of the ASEAN Grassroots Peoples Assembly (AGPA) opening ceremony, which was set to take place today at the Stung Meas restaurant from 3PM (15:00). The opening ceremony was to be little more an dinner, a show and an opportunity for many of the participants to meet one another.
A workshop tomorrow, originally set to be held at the Toul Kork Centre has also been cancelled, as the venue operators have invalidated the rental agreement. The cancellation comes as the Cambodian government has rescinded permission to hold some AGPA events which from the very beginning were private events that only invited participants were attending.
The limiting of AGPA’s options not merely in the public space but the private is a violation of the participants’ rights. Workshops and other events which were to be held not on public land but in private venues have had to be cancelled as the proprietors have come under pressure to cancel the contracts made with them to host the events. Permissions for some events have even been rescinded, yet for the use of private space no permission needs to be sought.
AGPA has always been about space – space to exercise basic civil liberties: the freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of expression. These civil liberties can only be exercised through space- – its use, its freedom, people’s rights to it and more. This development is nothing more than a denial of space for those participating in AGPA.
“The denial of the rights to assembly and expression are beyond saddening as AGPA was an event focused on of the guiding principles of ASEAN, such as good governance and the rule of law and respect one another, from which AGPA and its participants sought to work with the region’s leaders to better the situation for all its people. By taking part in the democratic process and working towards providing solutions AGPA and its participants were seeking to show the world that the RGC recognizes not only its own dignity and rights but also those of its people,” said Ly Pisey, a core organizer of AGPA.
The Cambodian constitution recognizes the right to assembly and association. AGPA aimed to be an event where the people were able to discuss what’s affecting them and to provide the government with solutions, not criticisms of its actions. That will no longer happen, even as the government decries it as protecting its dignity and security.
“AGPA is a non-violent event and the participants want nothing more than for peace to continue,” said Sar Mora, a core organizer of AGPA, to counter the Royal Government of Cambodia’s claims that events like AGPA and its workshops, forums, assembly and march are disruptive to the security of the capital, denying the dignity of all Cambodians and dishonoring the deceased King Father during this time of mourning. These claims are completely unfounded. Again and again AGPA, its organizers, and participants have emphasized that they are more than aware of these concerns, with the emphasis on the fact that AGPA is not compromising the dignity or security of any one party. Rather AGPA seeks to promote and showcase both through an inclusive democratic process.
The King Father sought to empower the people and give them a voice, with his passing it is time for his children, his people, to step up and take on that role, to not merely rely upon others to speak for them. AGPA sought to provide the opportunity for the people to do just that in a manner befitting the late King Father.