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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - No law is better than a bad law

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Mu Sochua greets supporters during a demonstration at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh in 2013. Afp

No law is better than a bad law

In recent weeks, hundreds of youth, men and women have peacefully taken to the streets of Phnom Penh to express their views against the NGO draft law.

The NGO campaign against the adoption of the NGO draft law comes after all hopes for negotiation with the government that proposed the draft to the National Assembly last week have failed.

It is most regrettable to see that police and hired security forces were used to prevent protesters to reach the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly.

Once again, citizens were denied their right to make use of the 2009 Peaceful Demonstration Law. Once again, citizens have to practise their freedom of speech under scrutiny.

In 2014, local and international NGOs contributed over $500 million to the state budget for social services, skills training, capacity building and disaster relief, reaching millions of Cambodia’s urban and rural poor.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party reiterates its recognition of the valuable contributions provided for over two decades by local and international NGOs and the vibrant grassroots groups.

An NGO law is not in need at this moment.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party will take part in an open process that will lead to the adoption of a law on non-governmental organisations and associations.

The adopted law should be used as an efficient tool to further enhance the roles, functions and contributions of Cambodia’s civil society.

The law should minimise registration procedures and reporting requirements must not violate the independence and functioning of these significant development partners.

The law should be clear on criteria for the state to deny or reject a registration.

Should there be case for sanction, there must be a clear mechanism for appeals and due process.

The law should give the judiciary no role in mediation of matters related to the functioning of non-governmental organisations or associations.

An open society is a multi-party society governed by rule of law, founded on the respect, the promotion and the protection of human rights.

Leaders of an open society are chosen through a free and fair democratic process.

It is not a society ruled by the power of an individual or a privileged group.

In an open society, citizens have the right to organise and to belong to associations, movements and committees of their own choice.

Furthermore, freedom of speech and assembly are fully guaranteed in the constitution of an open society.

Citizens of an open society are able and expected to be involved actively in politics, social and economic matters of the state.

An open society thrives with its citizens’ activism.

Mu Sochua is an MP and the Director-General of Public Relations of the Cambodia National Rescue Party.

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John Lowrie's picture

HE Mu Sochua has had to exercise self-censorship in her critique due to what are unconstitutional restrictions on freedom of expression under the current Culture of Dialogue. So let me add what she might otherwise have said:

We are seeing in Cambodia the rolling back to authoritarian rule of earlier eras, as the response of the ruling party after it almost lost power in the 2013 election when the majority either did not vote for it or abstained. Although initially reforms were promised to placate what is now a more sophisticated and better educated electorate, those have proved to be harder to accomplish than reverting to former and familiar stricter control of society. So all forms of actual or potential opposition are being systematically targeted. It is bound to end up in more bloodshed while armed security forces are deployed and able to act with impunity. Unfortunately with countries these days keen to promote trade (including those that signed the Paris Peace Accords) and to maintain harmonious relationships to do so, obligations to universal human rights standards are being conveniently shelved!"

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