Minister of Interior Sar Kheng has denounced the group of 100 NGOs and associations that called for the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (Lango) to be repealed as between 70 and 80 per cent of them are not even legally registered.
Speaking at the ministry’s 2019 annual meeting to review last year’s work and set goals for action plan 2020 on Thursday, he said: “They claimed that the number of protesting NGOs and associations reached 100.
“But some of the associations were not even aware they were added, although their names were included to give the impression of a larger opposition to Lango.
“In reality, some of the communities consisted of only a few people and were not registered NGOs or associations. Around 70 to 80 per cent are not on the Ministry of Interior’s official listings,” he said.
Sar Kheng said those that were registered were granted financial assistance from other countries. That financial assistance was then distributed to small communities in return for joining the objection to Lango.
“In some cases, the issues of those communities were irrelevant to Lango, so I do not understand why they were added to a complaint that opposes the law,” he said.
Sar Kheng also responded to the civil society organisations (CSOs) that demanded the government apply the civil code law instead of the Lango. He said, “the civil code law stipulates only one paragraph which does not address anything”.
Stressing that Cambodia is a haven of CSOs, he urged them and inter-ministerial groups responsible for amending the Lango to be patient.
Rights group Licadho’s vice-president Am Sam Ath claimed on Wednesday that NGOs and associations were finding it difficult to register because the Lango undermines and restricts many associations’ and local communities’ rights.
“Local communities, especially regarding land rights, have really suffered from Lango. When they tried to protect their land, authorities pressured them using Lango and suspended or banned them from operating. That is why NGOs are protesting against it,” he claimed.