The Ministry of Interior will hold a meeting with civil society representatives on Friday to gather feedback on the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (Lango).
Secretary of state Bun Hun said the meeting was aimed at ensuring society organisations would have their concerns heard after a number of them said Lango posed a serious threat to civil society organisations (CSOs) and NGOs by undermining democracy and restricting freedom.
Hun told The Post: “We also need to know more about the civil society organisations that proposed the amendments because when we held the forum only a few organisations were representing all of civil society.
“They requested amendments to almost 10 articles in the law. So we would like to understand exactly why they want them and for what reason.
“We collected their input and we studied whether the proposal was appropriate and what articles should be amended,” Bun Hun said.
Local rights group Adhoc spokesman Soeng Sen Karuna said in an interview with The Post that some NGOs and CSOs requested the Lango amendments since some of the provisions restricted their freedom of movement and endangered their contributions.
He said Adhoc faced many challenges including government surveillance, even though the group had registered with the government and complied with both Lango and the Ministry of Interior’s regulations, adding that penalties needed to be imposed on people who interfere with their activities.
“We have submitted the request to the Ministry of Interior to ask for amendments to some of the Articles that have restricted civil society activities.
“We want to make adjustments to some articles including punishing any person or officer who violates or obstructs civil society activities. Some articles have restricted our freedom by checking our reporting on our activities and finances,” Karuna said.
The controversial Lango has been criticised by members of civil society since it was put into effect in 2015.
Among the most heavily criticised is Article 24 which requires NGOs and CSOs to “maintain their neutrality towards political parties in the Kingdom of Cambodia” and Articles 10 and 25 which order organisations to register their bank accounts with the government and submit annual financial statements.
A total of 5,523 organisations had registered with the Ministry of Interior last year, according to official figures.
Hun maintained that it has become easier for CSOs and NGOs to properly register since the Lango came into effect. He said the organisations were free to continue their activities without fear and that the ministry had been trying to address their concerns through local public forums and other efforts.
Kin Phea, the director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, told The Post that some CSOs and NGOs wanted the articles removed so that they could do whatever they wished.
“The members of civil society who comply with the Lango and other existing legal documents and principles upheld by the Ministry of Interior should not be concerned.
“They should try to comply with Cambodian laws, its principles and avoid actions that adversely affect public order and security,” he said.