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NGO law primary focus during US envoy visit

US deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Scott Busby will end a two-day visit today the way he began it yesterday, hearing the myriad arguments surrounding Cambodia’s controversial draft NGO law.

Busby met with representatives from the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC), International Republican Institute, National Democratic Institute, and Future Forum at the embassy yesterday to hear their take on the contentious law on associations and non-governmental organisations (LANGO), CCC executive director Soeung Saroeun said.

“We told him that our position has not changed,” Saroeun said. “We continue to call for the government to release the official draft and delay the enactment of the law in order to have time for CSOs [civil society organisations] to provide important input that will ensure that it’s a meaningful law.”

According to him, Busby said that the NGOs’ stance is “very much in line with the US policy regarding civil society”.

Busby, who will today meet with civil society and government officials to discuss the proposed law, along with “labour rights, and other human rights-related topics”, will elaborate on the details of the meeting and other discussions with government officials today during a press conference.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that he was not aware about the purpose of the US official’s visit.

“We hope that the US would not be interfering with the internal sovereignty of Cambodia, particularly about the laws,” Siphan said.

Meanwhile, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party issued a statement urging the government “to hold public hearings to disseminate the draft Law on Association and NGOs in order for the public and the concerned groups to discuss and provide inputs on the draft”.

Other international watchdogs including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International sent out similar statements, with HRW pushing for the proposed law’s withdrawal and Amnesty asking that the National Assembly “ensure genuine public consultation” and that the LANGO be compliant to “Cambodia’s international human rights obligation”.

The Council of Ministers is scheduled to discuss the draft law this weekend and may pass it within the week, Siphan said.

He added that the government, through the Ministry of Interior, is organising a public forum with relevant officials and CSO representatives.



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