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Civil society: Cambodia’s treatment of NGOs faulted

Civil society: Cambodia’s treatment of NGOs faulted

Cambodia is on par with Ethiopia, Algeria and Belarus in terms of repressing non-government organisations, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says.

In a statement last week, she directly pointed to Cambodia’s proposed Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations, or LANGO, as having the potential to breach the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is enshrined in the constitution.

The latest draft of the LANGO, obtained by the Post last year, would allow the government to close NGOs and associations if their activities were deemed to “harm . . . national unity, culture, customs and traditions of the Cambodian national society”.

There would be no appeal available against such a decision.

“Civil-society actors help mobilise people to become involved in decisions that affect their lives,” Navi Pillay said. “If their contribution is weak or restrained, the needs of ordinary people are too easily sidelined.”

The High Commissioner said she welcomed the Cambodian government’s “commitment to subject the draft to further consultation and review”.

Civil-society organisations, however, have been sceptical of how much stakeholder input the government will accept in its redrafting.

In late March, as ASEAN chair, Cambodia organised a civil-society forum but excluded or cancelled some workshops on issues such as land rights, evictions and the environment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at [email protected]

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