The Ministry of Interior has rejected a request by some 100 civil society organisations to repeal the Law on Associations and NGOs (Lango).
The ministry said the current Lango is in line with the Constitution and had gone through many rounds of consultation among relevant parties before it was approved by the National Assembly.
The rejection came after some 100 organisations released a joint statement demanding that the government amend some articles in the law.
They said the current Lango affects not only well-established NGOs but also associations and local communities operating throughout the country.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the ministry said: “The law had been consulted publicly and widely for 20 years before being passed in August 2015. The ministry has welcomed input from stakeholders and agreed to accept proposals for amendments to some articles of the law.
“The ministry hopes to continue discussions to find a consensus on amendments to some other articles in the near future,” it said.
The ministry said it is willing to promote collaboration with NGOs and associations and would continue to organise more meetings with them to obtain positive results.
Rights group Licadho’s monitoring manager Am Sam Ath defended the proposal, saying it reflected the reality and challenges encountered by NGOs and associations throughout the Kingdom.
“It’s not uncommon. Various reports or statements [by NGOs] have faced rejection by the government. We don’t know why, but the government has always said some reports or statements are pro-opposition and political.
“The reports reflected reality on the ground and the difficulties faced by civil society.
Ministry secretary of state Bun Hun, who oversees amendments to the law, declined to comment on Thursday.
The NGOs’ joint statement insisted the Lango in its current state was unnecessary and merely a tool to restrict freedom of expression and assembly, and establishment of organisations.
It said previous meetings between civil society representatives and the ministry had failed to produce positive results regarding proposed amendments to Lango.
It alleged the government lacks the will to amend the law.
“We believe civil society, local communities and associations should be able to carry out their work towards developing Cambodia without restriction, violation and interference imposed by the current Lango,” the statement said.