Svay Rieng officials on Saturday prevented a local farmer coalition from conducting a workshop on raising chickens on the grounds it had failed to get permission from district and provincial authorities, a possible sign of increased scrutiny of NGOs working in the provinces.
The refusal to allow the workshop in Romeas Hek district follows a Ministry of Interior directive asking provincial governors to ensure NGOs notify local authorities three days prior to performing any activities. If an organisation does not do so, officials can bar the activity.
Despite the directive, the Law on Associations and NGOs does not spell out any such requirement. Though the Law on Peaceful Demonstrations requires notification of a planned event, it does not empower officials to prevent the activities except in extreme circumstances.
The Coalition of Cambodia Farmers Community was conducting the workshop for 25 families when Ampil commune authorities and police told them to stop, said Chhem Kosal, a project coordinator with the NGO.
“I informed them that we had informed the commune chief already, and the commune chief also permitted [it]. But they still required me to ask for permission from district and provincial levels,” he said.
He said such actions would make it difficult for his coalition to conduct their projects, intended merely to help local farmers.
Svay Rieng Deputy Governor Pich Sara said the group could have conducted the workshop had they followed the directive requiring prior notification.
“I am saying it is not political. I am happy to be able to teach our people how to raise chickens, but please respect the law,” he said.