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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kickback needed for NGO kickoff

Kickback needed for NGO kickoff

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) is allegedly requiring local NGOs to pay registration

bribes, or wait as long as three years while their applications are processed.

The alleged corruption has led to a complaint from a local literature association

and the arrest of an official in two cases related to the registration of NGOs.

There are no official registration fees, but local NGOs are allegedly being asked

to pay bribes of up to $500 to the MoI or face delays in the processing of application

documents.

The Literature Association of Sweden-Cambodia lodged an application with the MoI

to register as a local NGO in June and was told amendments required to their documents

could be fast-tracked for a cost.

"Mey Narath finally stated that he could assist the association with the whole

registration process for a fee of $500," wrote a board member of the NGO, who

did not want to be named, in a memo on June 21.

Mey Narath, believed to be with the MoI's Political Affairs Department, could not

be reached for comment. His former deputy at the MoI, Dy Sophan, told the Post on

August 10 that Narath was attending a court case related to a land dispute and could

not be reached because his phone had been stolen.

The literature association decided not to pay the unofficial fee but was warned by

its prospective funding body Forum Syd that the application might take up to three

years to process instead of the usual six weeks.

"Although they [Forum Syd] know there is a problem with corruption they want

you to be registered," said Anna Mattsson, a writer and founder of the NGO.

She said the amended application would be lodged.

Sak Setha, deputy director general of the Administration Department at the MoI, was

one of several ministry officials who admitted to the Post that corruption did occur

but he denied bribes were as high as alleged.

"I recognize that my employees have sold application forms for 10,000 to 15,000

riel, but not $500," said Setha

"The Ministry of Interior has no right to get money from someone, but if someone

does that it means they committed corruption and we have to condemn them by the law,"

he said.

And that's what happened to Seab Chheng An, chief of an office under the Administration

Department at the MoI, who was arrested on August 10 because he did not pay a broker

for securing documents to start an NGO.

Chheng An had allegedly promised to pay Thep Ho $65,000 or give him six hectares

of land in Sihanoukville in return for organizing documents that would help him register

a rural aid NGO, said Phnom Penh municipal court judge Kim Sophorn.

Sophorn could not explain why Ho would need to pay $65,000 to organize what should

be a free registration with the MoI or how this affected the "cheating"

charges.

A draft law on local associations and non-governmental organizations was written

in early 2002, setting out processes for registering with the MoI, but is not yet

official legislation.

International NGOs are told to register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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