Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Doubts linger on NGO law



Doubts linger on NGO law

Doubts linger on NGO law

Representatives from NGOs again requested that officials at the ministries of interior and foreign affairs accept changes to a second draft of the government’s contentious draft NGO law during a closed-door meeting yesterday, but found limited success.

Officials said it would be “the last consultation” with them on the law, following a large public meeting in January and several smaller private meetings since, said Chith Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum.

Lun Borithy, executive director of the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, said relations between the government and NGOs were “very tense”.

“We’re not hopeful,” he said.

“It was a very tense meeting, and it did not really live up to our expectations as being a truthful and meaningful dialogue.”  

Lun Borithy said several “sticking points” were raised. “But there was no real concrete promise that they will be taken fully on board.”

NGOs have raised numerous concerns with the law, arguing that it would violate freedom of association and expose the vast sector to arbitrary governmental authority.

Seng Soheng, a representative for Community Peace-building Network, said the second draft was unacceptable and included few changes from the first.

“We cannot accept this law, because they put much pressure on local and international NGOs operating in Cambodia,” said Seng Soheng.

NGOs have said mandatory registration would violate the freedom to associate and impose requirements too burdensome for small organisations. That provision has been retained, and officials rejected appeals to remove it, participants said.

Chith Sam Ath said it was “difficult to say” whether the law was acceptable.

The legislation is expected to be submitted to the Council of Ministers soon, perhaps as early as the end of the week.

Nouth Sa An, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, and Ouch Borith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said NGOs could still work with the law but would face limitations.

“Even if this does not change, we can work under this law,” he said. “But we [will] not have much freedom.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MAY TITTHARA

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting