Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Interior minister warns NGOs not to provoke law enforcement

Interior minister warns NGOs not to provoke law enforcement

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Police officials, representatives from civil society groups and development partners attended at a forum on cooperation to promote democracy organised by the Ministry of Interior yesterday. Pha Lina

Interior minister warns NGOs not to provoke law enforcement

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Thursday reminded civil society groups of their duty to respect the integrity of the July 29 national elections, saying the government would not tolerate attempts by them to “participate in a colour revolution”.

He was speaking at a forum organised by the Ministry of Interior and attended by around 400 high-ranking police officials, representatives from civil society groups and development partners on cooperation between the government and them to promote democracy.

Kheng stressed that the government has not linked any civil society group to a colour revolution, but said some organisations had acted illegally by provoking people to protest against law enforcement under the pretext of human rights and democracy.

“[I am] not threatening, but if [we] have enough evidence, civil society organisations will be responsible before the law if they involve themselves in any [illegal] case or participate in a colour revolution. [We will] not play with them.”

The minister said the government has ensured the elections will proceed in a free, fair and just manner in line with the democratic process.

“I strongly hope that today’s forum will ensure the government and civil society organisations have a clear mutual understanding,” Sar Kheng said.

He also called for a stronger partnership between civil society and the government.

“We should not consider each other as rivals. On behalf of the government of Cambodia, the Ministry of Interior and I will continue to promote democracy."

“This forum is aimed at strengthening our partnership, not to the stage where we are inseparable, like fish and water. But we must share the role of showing the truth, and making it clear it is the truth. We should not consider each other as enemies."

“We must cooperate. What is right must be stated as right, and what is wrong must be stated as wrong. This is what we need.”

The Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC), which represents the largest number of civil society organisations in the Kingdom, used the forum to highlight its members’ concerns of being linked to opposition movements and a “colour revolution”.

“Although the general situation of cooperation between the government and civil society has improved over almost three decades, civil society groups have spoken of concern at being linked under the current political climate to opposition movements or of being involved in a colour revolution,” CCC Executive Director Soeung Saroeun said.

Saroeun also appealed to the government for a favourable environment in which his association’s members would be able to carry out their work without fear.

“We strongly hope that civil society organisations will be allowed the space to operate within the legal framework and in accordance with the law to act in good faith in a fair and unbiased environment,” Saroeun said.

Kheng also used the forum to refute allegations made by some national and international bodies that freedom of expression in Cambodia is being eroded, citing the existence “of more than five thousand organisations and associations in Cambodia”.

However, the interior minister expressed concern at a perceived “deterioration” between the government and civil society.

“The ministry sees it as a problem that there is a perception that the government will adopt a heavy-handed approach to civil society groups, and relations and cooperation on the ground seem to be deteriorating as a result,” Kheng said.

“This is not the case. But whenever there is enough evidence, organisations must be responsible before the law. [We] will not tolerate the law being broken.”

The ministry’s General Administration Department director-general, Prak Sam Oeun, compared civil society associations to political parties.

He said just as political parties have statutes they must obey, and also comply with the law, so must civil society groups do likewise.

“When these organisations act against set procedure, we have to enforce the law, so the Ministry of Interior will remove them if their activities affect national security, public order, national unity, culture, and the traditions of society,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Government hits back at threats to pull EBA, suspend UN seat

    The spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has said the government is in no way concerned after the European Parliament gave it three months to reverse what it called the “systematic repression of the political opposition”. Ignoring the ultimatum could mean facing

  • Chinese influx pushing locals, Westerners out of Preah Sihanouk

    Some within the Kingdom’s tourism industry have speculated that the recent influx of Chinese visitors may hinder domestic tourism as the price of accommodations in the coastal city of Sihanoukville continues to rise. Preah Sihanouk province, which has become a hotbed for Chinese investment

  • Sar Kheng: Sokha requested security

    Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Sunday revealed the story behind the transfer of former opposition party leader Kem Sokha from Trapaing Phlong prison in Tbong Khmum province to his house in the capital. Speaking at the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) headquarters in Prey

  • ‘Dire consequences’ from sanctions, warns AmCham

    American businesspeople in Cambodia have warned that any sanction against the Kingdom would have “dire consequences” that could push Cambodia even further into the arms of China. In a letter to US senators and representatives dated Monday, the American Chamber of Commerce Cambodia (AmCham) said