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

  • Website advises travellers to stay clear of Angkor Wat

    An Australian website has advised travellers to avoid Angkor Wat during their trip to Southeast Asia because the ancient temple is showing signs of rapid erosion and faced water management issues. In a recent article entitled Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid

  • First deportees of the year touch down in Cambodia

    Twenty-five Cambodian-Americans landed in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, marking the first such deportations of the year. “On Wednesday, US law enforcement authorities deported 25 Cambodian nationals that immigration judges determined had no legal basis to remain in the US,” said Arend Zwartjes, spokesperson for the US

  • Passenger taxi boat ridership sinks despite free services

    Passenger taxi boat traffic has dropped by about five per cent compared to the same period last year, despite the government providing free service for garment workers until next year, Phnom Penh Autonomous Bus Transportation Authority director Ean Sokhim said on Monday. In 2018, the Phnom

  • Kingdom drafting new law to strengthen immigration

    The Ministry of Interior on Tuesday said it had formed a working group to draft amendments to the Law on Immigration. Its secretary of state Sok Phal told The Post that the amendments will strengthen the management of immigrants in line with the current situation.

  • Qatar Airways to connect Doha and Siem Reap town

    Qatar Airways Company QCSC has announced a new route connecting Qatar’s capital Doha with Siem Reap, a move hailed by local officials as a significant step to boost tourist numbers. A Qatar Airways representative, speaking at the Kuwait Aviation Show, announced on Thursday that

  • Jica seeks to turn PP, towns into smart cities

    Japanese International Cooperation Agency (Jica) representatives have sought support from Siem Reap’s Apsara National Authority (ANA) to transform the ancient capital into a smart city. The call was made in February last year after the government approved three cities to join the Asean Smart