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Early steps taken toward info law

Following their first working group meeting yesterday, United Nations, opposition and civil society leaders commended the government’s transparency in the consultation process surrounding a long-awaited access-to-information law, though some questioned its commitment to implementing the legislation.

The meeting, held at the Ministry of Information, is the first in a three-year consultation period that aims to engage the public and NGOs in the creation of a law suitable to Cambodia. It comes a year after Prime Minister Hun Sen urged the Ministry of Information to hasten the development of the law, which has been in the works since 2007.

“Having an open process like this is very promising and is a testimony of how Cambodia is opening up,” said UNESCO Cambodia representative Anne Lemaistre.

In the next three years, the working group will hold yearly community forums in five main regions across the Kingdom. They will also soon launch a website where the public can air their views about the legislation, which will start being drafted in mid-December.

Currently, the committee is studying similar laws in 10 countries including the US, China and Thailand.

“But we don’t just want to copy laws from other countries, because it’s different in the Cambodian context, so we have to sit together and discuss,” Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said yesterday.

Neb Sinthay, director of the Advocacy Policy Institute, one of the advising NGOs, said the process seemed participatory so far, but he had concerns.

“My big concern is the scope of this new legislation … and how much our recommendations as a civil society will be welcomed and heard moving forward,” Sinthay said.

CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay, agreed, saying he was wary of the government’s commitment.

“It’s very positive to have the government involved … but are they dedicated in adopting this law, or are they doing it to appease the international community?”

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