Diplomatic Briefing: Asia Centre’s Training Hub in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

On April 5, 2024, the Asia Centre held a briefing for Bangkok-based diplomatic missions accredited to Cambodia. The briefing covered Asia Centre’s work in Cambodia, introduced its new Training Hub in Phnom Penh, and provided some preliminary findings from its research on electoral integrity in Cambodia.

The briefing was attended by key diplomatic missions, including the Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland and Japan embassies, INGOs engaged with Cambodia, and several Australian New Colombo Plan Scholars based in Thailand. Also in attendance was Emeritus Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn in his academic role, who is also concurrently the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia.

The event began with the opening remarks by Dr. James Gomez, Regional Director of Asia Centre. He provided an overview of the Asia Centre, introduced the Training Hub in Phnom Penh, and then outlined the importance of Cambodia in the Asia Centre’s regional approach, demonstrated by the Centre’s ongoing research and engagements in the country.

Dr. Marc Piñol Rovira, Research Manager at the Asia Centre, provided an overview of the Asia Centre’s work in Cambodia. He outlined and detailed the suite of research, UN submissions, and engagements that the Centre has undertaken regarding Cambodia, such as its report “Internet Freedoms in Cambodia: A Gateway to Control”, published in 2021 in partnership with the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law.

Following this, Dr. Marc Piñol Rovira introduced Asia Centre’s preliminary findings of its research on electoral integrity in Cambodia, which is in partnership with the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC). He provided a comprehensive summary of the report’s background and then presented the key findings and recommendations for key actors in Cambodia, highlighting the decrease in physical violence and harassment in election periods but an observed increase in legislative and administrative restrictions.

Finally, to provide insights into the Asia Centre’s growth in the region, Dr. James Gomez outlined some of the upcoming projects and initiatives that the Centre has planned for Cambodia, including media advocacy training, digital rights and security programmes, and advocacy activities related to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).

After the presentations, opportunities for discussion and questions were provided. Participants actively engaged in open discussion, primarily focused on the declining, weakened state of electoral integrity in the country. The issue of security and safety when operating as an organisation in Cambodia was also discussed, to which Dr. James Gomez explained that Asia Centre’s expertise in the country and the strategic partnerships it has developed with key stakeholders have allowed it to develop trust and a presence in the country. He also emphasised that research and advocacy that has a genuine impact often requires navigating these concerns, which Asia Centre has experience in through expanding its operations into countries throughout the region.

After the briefing concluded, a networking session provided participants with an opportunity to connect after the event. The new and existing connections and networks developed through the briefing will support Asia Centre’s Cambodia approach as it commences its operations in the country.

If you are interested in partnering with the Asia Centre on projects related to Cambodia or others, please email info@asiacentre.org.

Asia Centre is a civil society research institute in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. It serves as a knowledge partner and undertakes evidence-based research as well as provides capacity-building training for end beneficiaries. If you would like to collaborate with the Centre, please send an expression of interest to contact@asiacentre.org.

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