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CSOs asked to seek legal advice over amendments

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Ministry of Interior officials meet with civil society organisations over Lango amendments. interior ministry

CSOs asked to seek legal advice over amendments

Ministry of Interior secretary of state Bun Honn called on civil society organisations (CSOs) to seek legal advice to better understand and participate during the ongoing amendment procedure for the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (Lango).

He was speaking during a meeting at the ministry’s headquarters on Monday to review the contents of the amendments. Inter-ministerial officials, diplomats and development partners also attended.

“Amending or enacting each law is difficult and requires a great deal of engagement with legal experts because the spirit of the law is aimed at the objective of each of its articles,” Honn was quoted on the ministry’s website as saying.

This was the fourth such meeting, he said, and the ministry called on the participating CSOs to raise ideas and suggestions for discussion.

Their input will help craft the law to best suit the interest of the public and all parties involved, besides strengthening partnerships with public authorities.

“The next session will be held to gather important input from the CSOs and submit them to the Royal Government for a procedural review,” he said.

Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community director Theng Savoeun said CSOs have sufficient lawyers and experts at their disposal and have held internal meetings before meeting with the ministry.

He expressed his satisfaction with the results of Monday’s dialogue, saying that there was mutual understanding between the ministry and CSO representatives.

“We discussed three articles [of the Lango], including Articles 10, 11, and 20, which CSOs noted have some [negative] impact on the people and civil society,” said Savoeun.

A senior CSO official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said several key articles needed to be amended, including Article 11. CSOs have called for the first paragraph to be removed, while the ministry has insisted it be kept.

“The conditions, formalities and procedures for establishing and registering an association or an NGO by a foreign legal entity or a foreign person shall be determined by a prakas of the Ministry of Interior,” reads an unofficial translation of the first paragraph of Lango’s Article 11 on sithi.org.

Bun Honn could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

However, also on Monday, 100 CSOs and associations issued a joint statement calling on the government to scrap Lango entirely on grounds that it is unnecessary and merely a tool to restrict freedom of assembly, organisation establishment and expression.

“We believe that civil society groups, local communities and domestic associations should be working towards the development of Cambodia without restriction and abuse as well as interference from the Lango,” the statement read.

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