A government working group is evaluating proposed revisions to the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (LANGO). The group has reviewed input from various NGOs and will hold further consultations with them before referring recommended reforms for ratification.
The group held a meeting at the Ministry of Interior on February 17 led by secretary of state Bun Honn to consider suggested reforms submitted by NGOs.
Ministry of Justice secretary of state Chin Malin said after attending the meeting: “We reviewed their input to determine whether their requests conformed to a legal basis. We also looked at various legal perspectives and compared the proposals with practices in other countries around the region.”
“The working group found some proposals acceptable while others were not. There are some additional points about which we will discuss further with NGOs in order to understand their goals and intentions,” Malin said.
The group’s report will be discussed with participating NGOs and will be referred for higher level discussions before a final decision is issued about whether to amend some articles in the law, he said.
LANGO was promulgated in August 2015, consisting of nine chapters and 39 articles. Since then, NGOs and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have complained that it is overly restrictive and requested that the government amend 14 sections entailing articles 1, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 20, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31, 32 and 35.
Kang Savang, a monitor with the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said the most controversial articles are 10, 24 and 26. Article 10 requires notification to the interior ministry if an NGO changes its address, a bank account or leaders.
He noted that Article 24 also poses a challenge for NGOs and CSOs as it broadly states that such organisations must maintain neutrality towards political parties in the Kingdom.
“The law requires neutrality, but it did not explain specifically what is regarded as neutral. It is a dangerous point for us. For example, if an NGO staff member meets politically involved individuals in a setting such as a cafe, should that be seen as non-neutral? This is why we need clarity,” Savang said.
Article 26 describes financial and other activity reports which NGOs must submit to the government each year. It also references another portion of the law which stipulates that NGOs are to be deregistered if they fail to comply with any pertinent regulations, he said.