Domestic and foreign associations or NGOs must register with the government to work.
If they fail to do so, local groups face fines of around $2,500 while foreigners can be evicted. In both instances, staff face further criminal prosecution.
“It is going to criminalise the freedom of association and assembly.”
The law’s vague definitions of NGOs and associations could be used as a catchall to target any association of people, no matter how small or informal, Panha said.
“Working groups, community based organisations, platforms, neighbourhood clubs . . . they can all be interpreted as NGOs.’’
The Interior and Foreign ministries have total discretion over the registration process and can deregister groups who contravene the law.
Groups can be blocked or deregistered if their activities jeopardise peace, stability and public order or harm national security, unity, culture or traditions.
“They can target any NGO if they don’t like them.’’
Registered groups are required to remain “politically neutral” or face deregistration.
“NGOs do a lot of advocacy for human rights and democracy; the government can interpret this as political and terminate groups.”