The Cambodia National Rescue Party yesterday presented civil society representatives with its proposed amendments to the highly controversial draft NGO law, as a raft of organisations once again called on Prime Minister Hun Sen to scrap the legislation.
The action came just days before the draft Law on Associations and Non Governmental Organisations (LANGO) is reportedly scheduled to be voted on by the National Assembly.
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said the CNRP held the meeting yesterday to “hear from the NGOs what they want us to do”.
“There was a mixture of suggestions”, he said, explaining that some NGOs urged the party to participate in this week’s expected parliamentary consultation so it can push for amendments, while others called for a boycott.
“Our position is that whatever the NGOs suggest, we will do that,” Chhay said.
A united decision, he added, is expected to be reached today.
A copy of the CNRP’s proposed amendments obtained yesterday reveals an array of changes the opposition would like to see before the law is approved.
The suggested amendments include giving the government less time to consider applications to establish NGOs and organisations, while giving NGOs and organisations more time to fulfil bureaucratic obligations such as submitting their bank account details.
Bans on former leaders of NGOs that have been “deleted from registration”, or people under the age of 18 from establishing new organisations would be scrapped.
The CNRP also proposes changing one of the bill’s most controversial articles, which states that all NGOs and organisations must be “neutral toward all political parties”.
“Associations and NGOs cannot do any activity that is banned or immoral . . . and cannot direct any political action for or against any person or any group to seek [a] public position,” it says.
Chhay yesterday said the law “should make things easy” for NGOs operating in the Kingdom, rather than more difficult.
Some of the ruling party officials behind the law “seem to think that NGOs are the enemy . . . That is ridiculous.”
Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said NGOs were reviewing the CNRP’s proposals and would discuss them at a consultation today.
National Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun could not be reached yesterday.
Meanwhile, 40 international NGOs – including Amnesty International, Global Witness, and Human Rights Watch – yesterday wrote to Hun Sen urging him to “immediately withdraw” the draft.