As the Ministry of Interior prepares to meet NGOs for the third time next Thursday, Kratie provincial governor Va Thorn has urged an estimated 152 civil society organisations, associations and communities in the province to follow the law, maintain political neutrality and refrain from getting involved in a colour revolution.
Thorn made the call during a recent forum attended by civil society organisations and associations operating in the province.
Held under the theme Strengthening Cooperation with Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and the Government for Sustainable Development in Cambodia, the forum was presided over by Kim Roth Viseth, secretary of state at the Council of Ministers and president of the board of directors of the Civil Society Alliance Forum.
Thorn told The Post on Wednesday that some communities in the province had raised numerous concerns including land grabbing, forest clearing and fisheries-related offences.
The communities, he said, urged the authorities to take action against migrants’ encroachment on their communal land, stop illegal logging and overfishing.
But Soeng Sen Karuna, the spokesman for human rights group Adhoc based in the province, said the forum did little to address the concerns of CSOs working on human rights and advocacy. He said CSOs still faced restrictions when conducting their activities.
“If [the forum] is held to accept participants’ requests and address their concerns, and if relevant authorities themselves comply with the Ministry of Interior’s guidance, there would not be any problems. But they [officials] failed to follow the guidance.
“We still see officials going around monitoring and disrupting CSOs’ activities. That is the main concern of the participants,” he said.
However, Thorn said: “We have had good cooperation with associations, NGOs and communities in contributing to social development and poverty reduction in the province.
“Regarding land grabbing and forestry crimes brought up by forest and fishing communities during the forum, we will work to address their concerns,” he said.
Thorn also urged CSOs to strengthen solidarity and collaboration with the government, respect the laws on non-governmental organisations and ensure political neutrality.
“Associations, NGOs and local communities must strictly follow the law, maintain neutrality, ensure transparency, and avoid secretly planning a revolution,” he stressed.
Roth Viseth of the Council of Ministers could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The Ministry of Interior’s announcement dated August 15 said the third forum between the government and CSOs will be held at the ministry on August 29. The agenda will include reviewing the progress of partnerships between both parties.