A senior Ministry of Interior official on Tuesday instructed municipal, district and commune authorities to set aside a specific time to hold forums with NGOs twice a year to show the willingness and commitment of sub-national administrations to address their concerns.
Secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior Bun Hun was speaking to some 300 people, mostly members of civil society groups.
“This is a point we want to push, not only at the national level but also to sub-national authorities. We have on many occasions instructed sub-national leadership to arrange meetings with local NGOs."
“We have advised them to hold forums between the provincial administration and civil society organisations operating in their area,” he said.
Hun said Minister of Interior Sar Kheng had instructed local authorities to hold such meetings several times, for example in Directive 040 issued last year and a letter on Thursday in which he asked city and provincial authorities to organise forums with local NGOs at least twice a year.
“We want to find out the issues facing civil society organisations and address your concerns about a lack of transparency. What challenges do you face? "
“[The ministry’s instruction] has not yet achieved many fruitful results. Now the ministry has ordered them to set a specific schedule for 2019 in every province to meet with civil society organisations and report back to the ministry,” he said.
Hun said the programme aims to help sub-national authorities take more responsibility for solving local issues and discover if there are problems between NGOs and local administrators due to previous disputes.
“For example, district and commune authorities recently imposed bans when NGOs have tried to organise events."
“I suggest civil society organisations in every locality contact commune and provincial administrations to organise these forums. If a meeting cannot be arranged or is cancelled, please contact me and I will help sort out any issues,” he said.
The Ministry of Interior itself has twice held forums led by Sar Kheng with civil society organisations from across the country – once in June last year and again in January. Another meeting is expected to take place in the second quarter of this year.
A Halo Trust official who asked not to be named told The Post that Pursat province had yet to hold a forum and he didn’t know when the local authorities planned to do so. This person said they would like sub-national authorities to organise one very soon.
“From the end of 2018 until now, I have not received a letter of invitation. I’m still waiting,” he said.
Net Chenda, the executive director of the Organisation to Improve Communication and Swallowing Therapy Services in Cambodia, said she also wished to see forums take place soon. On behalf of other civil society organisations, she said she wanted regular and clear discussions between them and local authorities.
“Because it’s a new programme, local authorities need time to incorporate it into their annual plans, and there may be budget issues. But we are expecting that forums in the provinces will happen soon,” she said.
Kandal provincial governor Mao Phirun told The Post on Wednesday that he was yet to organise a forum as he had been too busy. However, he said one would be held in the second quarter of this year.
“We can’t organise a meeting right now. It has nothing to do with budget, it’s just that we don’t have the time. The meeting will be a great opportunity to jointly try to resolve issues and problems that go beyond the province,” he said.