Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Govt to seek 'input' on NGO law

Govt to seek 'input' on NGO law

Govt to seek 'input' on NGO law

090203_04.jpg
090203_04.jpg

The author of the draft law tightening NGO funding restrictions says civil society concerns will be taken into account before its passing, but rights groups remain unconvinced.

Photo by:
MOM KUNTHEAR

NGOs run a variety of programs in Cambodia, including this hand-washing day last year. 

THE government has vowed to include nongovernmental organisations in the consultation process for drafting new legislation regulating their activities, but this has done little to assuage the fears of civil society groups who see the impending law as a threat, government and NGO officials say.

"We have the draft legislation in our hands. We are in the process of sending the legislation out to NGOs asking them for their views," said Sieng Lapresse, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Interior.

As the government official in charge of organising the new law, Sieng Lapresse said that after NGOs have had an opportunity to review the document, the government would meet with them to discuss their concerns.

"We will hold a seminar and ask NGOs to contribute, but the final legislation will be determined by the government," he said.

If passed, the bill is expected to require all NGO funding to pass through the Ministry of Economy and Finance in an attempt to prevent terrorist groups acting as, or financially supporting, such groups.

Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, told the Post he believed the legislation would be a disaster for local NGOs.

"This will delay NGO operations and restrict them," he said. "Money cannot go through the ministry because we would not be willing to pay a bribe to ensure we get our money."

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the independence NGOs currently cherish could be in jeopardy if the draft legislation were enacted.

"I hope we don't go bankrupt. We must not criticise the government because, if we do, maybe we will get no funds," he said.

One particular concern is the restriction on NGOs from partaking in any activity serving the interest of a political organisation, which Sok Sam Oeun labelled an attempt by the government to muzzle criticism.

"We do not understand what is meant by political interest," he said, adding that it could potentially allow anyone who is a member of a political party to take an NGO to court for speaking out against them.

Ou Virak said the nature of NGO work was to express political views and ensure the rights of Cambodians are protected.

"They say NGOs cannot be involved in politics," he said. "But politics is about pushing for better policy or direction, and this is what NGOs do."

Sieng Lapresse said claims that it was an attempt to control NGOs were merely the "opinion of some".

The NGO law, first proposed in 1995 by the Council of Ministers, is set to enter the National Assembly before the anticipated penal code and anti-corruption bills, with Sieng Lapresse saying NGO legislation was a "priority" for the government.

But Ou Virak said that if the government needs an anti-terrorism law, it should pass it.

"The law is always changing ... it was to control NGOs ... but now they are using terrorism," he said. "We need a comprehensive anti-terrorism law, not an anti-NGO law."

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all