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ADB denies meeting was critical of NGOs

ADB denies meeting was critical of NGOs

The Asian Development Bank yesterday acknowledged that a meeting at the Ministry of Economy and Finance referred to in a letter that calling for a crackdown on NGOs critical of a railway project it is funding occurred, but said that it made no criticism of NGOs at the meeting.

“The only thing ADB has communicated to the highest levels of government and all other stakeholders about NGOs – at this meeting and at all other times – is that ADB feels that NGOs involved with the railway project have provided useful information that has helped address the needs of people affected by the project,” it said yesterday.

The June 9 meeting between the ADB’s director general for Southeast Asia and finance ministry officials is pointed to as one of two background references in a June 17 letter calling for a crackdown on NGOs that had been critical of the railway project. The letter is allegedly from Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The ADB also reiterated yesterday that it had been unable to “verify the authenticity of the letter”. However, when asked whether it had discussed the letter with government officials it said it “discussed this issue with the highest levels of government”.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan declined to comment to the Post.

The interior ministry suspended land rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut following a meeting in late July. The June 17 letter is cited as a background reference on STT’s suspension letter. STT said on Monday that the letter reportedly from Keat Chhon fully vindicated its position that its suspension was politically motivated.

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