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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Government derides NGO law critics

Government derides NGO law critics

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A rights monitor from a local NGO observes a forced eviction at Boeung Kak lake in September.

The government last week issued a stinging retort to civil society’s intense criticism of the draft NGO law, signalling that any changes to the law are unlikely to be substantive.

“For too long already, [Human Rights Watch director] Brad Adams and his peers have painted Cambodia NGOs as the victims of political and human rights violations committed by the RGC, which is a plain lie within a global framework of a campaign of intoxication [sic] against Cambodia,” the statement read.

Released late Thursday by the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, the statement said that such criticisms of the draft NGO law were premature.

“We have modified many of the articles and reviewed the legality of the law and the social and cultural impacts,” Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told the Post yesterday. “It is too early to comment on the fourth draft yet until it is public.”

The fourth – and final – draft of the NGO law, which currently sits with the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for “consultation,” will be released within the next two weeks, Phay Siphan said. This fourth draft will be the version passed into law, he added.

In response to a recent joint statement by three UN human rights special rapporteurs, the government states that UN special rapporteurs have no legal status in Cambodia unless they have a Human Rights Council mandate.

The government then accuses them of using “cheap tricks” to secure a mandate to Cambodia, by requesting that the  government invite their assistance.

One special rapporteur who does have a Human Rights Council mandate, Surya Subedi, issued a report in August slamming the lack of “meaningful consultation” with civil society in developing the draft NGO law. The Human Rights Council have since taken the extraordinary measure of extending his mandate to monitor the human rights situation in Cambodia for another two years.

“The year-long campaign against the RGC’s duty and responsibility to regulate NGOs in Cambodia is a well-thought and well-designed scheme intended to protect and prevent the … NGOs involved in legal and human rights advocacy from adhering to the rules of transparency and accountability,” the government’s statement read.

The statement adds that the draft law is in full compliance with both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Kingdom’s Constitution, stating: “[The] Law is restrictive, but when it is in conformity with the articles of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, it is good law.”

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