Villagers and civil society activists in Pailin province say they were blocked from holding an educational forum on migration this week, with authorities saying the restrictions were due to the new coronavirus variant.
However, since there are no pandemic-related restrictions in the province governing other mass events, like weddings or festivals, some speculated the ban on the educational forum was political.
Yin Mengly, a provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, which had planned the forum in Sala Krau district’s Stueng Trang commune, said he’d had to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get permission to hold the events marking Human Rights Day — but it was ultimately denied.
“I think [it] may be related to election campaigning or fear of civil society going into politics,” he said.
The forum had sought to educate locals on the dangers of human trafficking and abuse.
“We have to go in and out of Thailand a lot, so we want to know the rules to reduce the risk,” said one commune resident, Om Sam Ol, adding that there are a lot of migrant workers in her area and they lack understanding of the law.
Adhoc said they were told by commune authorities to write a letter to the district to get permission for their talk. But then the district authorities asked them to contact provincial officials. The provincial governor denied the rights group’s request to hold a session on December 9, and never responded to a request to hold another on December 17.
Governor of Sala Krau district, Sam Sareth, declined to comment when asked why the educational forums were prevented from going ahead, while Pailin provincial governor, Ban Srey Mom, did not respond to messages from CamboJA.