THE Ministers of Interior say concern about a draft law on the registration of NGOs
"The purpose...is not to oppress NGOs and associations, but on the contrary
to provide protection to genuine NGOs and associations," Sar Kheng and You Hockry
wrote this week in reply to criticism of the law.
Arguing that the law was an attempt to balance the NGO freedoms with governmnt concerns,
the ministers said it would protect "legitimate NGOs by preventing fraudulent
conduct by fake NGOs that do not work in the public interest."
Earlier, 24 Khmer NGOs complained about the law's requirements for NGOs to register
with the ministry, and file annual reports on their activities and finances, or face
fines and deregistration.
The NGOs, under the auspices of the Cambodian Human Rights Coordination Committee,
wrote to National Assembly president Chea Sim, legislation commission head Chhuor
Leang Huot and human rights commission chief Kem Sokha. The letter said that the
law's registration and reporting requirements - and a penalty of up to $800 for failure
to meet them - constituted a declaration of war on NGOs.
"If the ministry wants to know about spending of organizations, it can ask the
donors for that information and should not impose this kind of pressure on local
associations," the letter said, urging the fine for non-compliance be removed
In a reply to the three Parliamentarians, the Ministers of Interior wrote that the
law would encourage transparency within and among NGOs.
They said that the government was entitled to know how NGOs spent their money and
whether their work was in the public interest, especially since they would get tax
The law would not breach the Constitutional right to the freedom of association,
the ministers said, adding that they would meet with NGOs to discuss their concerns.
The law has yet to be approved by the Council of Ministers.