Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Government agrees to foster stronger civil society




Government agrees to foster stronger civil society

From left, Dr Tan Monivann, vice president of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce; Fiona Ramsey, head of cooperation at the EU delegation; Ngan Chamroeun, under secretary of state of the Ministry of Interior; and Soeung Saroeun, executive director of the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia at the launch of a project for strengthening civil society in Cambodia.
From left, Dr Tan Monivann, vice president of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce; Fiona Ramsey, head of cooperation at the EU delegation; Ngan Chamroeun, under secretary of state of the Ministry of Interior; and Soeung Saroeun, executive director of the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia at the launch of a project for strengthening civil society in Cambodia. Erin Handley

Government agrees to foster stronger civil society

A ministry of Interior official yesterday joined with representatives from the European Union, NGOs and the private sector to champion the “strengthening of civil society”, even as the government continues to jail and surveil human rights defenders.

The Cooperation Committee for Cambodia yesterday launched its $1.5 million “Strengthening civil society for democratic and sustainable development” project, which is jointly funded by the EU and the nonprofit Bread for the World.

The Interior Ministry’s Ngan Chamroeun, who is also executive deputy head of the National Committee for Sub-National Democratic Development, spoke of the need for transparency in health and education at the local level, despite the national government being able to share “very little” funding.

Asked if government pressure – such as the Interior Ministry’s “observation” of civil society groups, and imprisonment of four Adhoc human rights defenders and an election official – fostered an “enabling environment”, as the project aimed to do, Chamroeun demurred.

“Our information that we receive, we think that it is reliable information, [shows] there are some irregularities in the performance of some NGOs,” he said, referring to groups that focus on democracy and human rights.

“What we try to do is [work] for a change in the environment and building trust among these stakeholders.”Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak yesterday confirmed the authorities were continuing to monitor rights groups Adhoc and Licadho.

“They must be neutral, and this is not a threat . . . A neutral organisation is an organisation that does not serve a political party or any group,” he said.

“Look at Adhoc, how many people have been in jail because of this [political scandal]? . . . And [Adhoc] shut the mouth of the witness, while the director has run away from the country,” he said, repeating allegations – long denied – that NGO workers bribed the purported mistress of opposition leader Kem Sokha.

Licadho’s Naly Pilorge questioned whether the ministry really wanted to learn the importance of a vibrant civil society.

“In light of all the growing threats against land communities, political activists, youths, monks, NGOs and journalists, I am surprised an MOI representative took part in the launching of a long term project to strengthen civil society,” she said.

EU Ambassador George Edgar said CSOs can provide services, develop policy and “help provide a channel for the concerns of vulnerable groups whose voices might otherwise not be heard”.

“I hope that this will be one of the areas on which the project will engage,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hungarian exposes 90 to Covid in Siem Reap

    The Ministry of Health has discovered 90 people who have been exposed directly or indirectly to a Hungarian man infected with Covid-19. They all are required to quarantine at home and the hospital. The ministry is searching for other affected people. Among the 90, one is the

  • PM warns of ‘new Cold War’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the possibility of a so-called new Cold War has become a significant concern and that all countries have to reject outright, any attempt to allow history to tragically repeat itself. He made the remarks in a speech during 75th Session

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped