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New draft released of controversial NGO law

New draft released of controversial NGO law

The Ministry of Interior has distributed a revised draft of its contentious NGO law ahead of a private meeting today with the heads of several umbrella organisations, the latest round of behind-the-scenes negotiations in consultation on the legislation.

NGOs called earlier this year for an overhaul of the first draft and further public meetings, saying that the combination of arbitrary government authority and mandatory registration and reporting requirements would violate freedom of association, cripple local community-based organisations and invite interference in the activities of organisations deemed too “critical” of the government.

The new draft introduces an exception that would allow local community-based organisations to operate without registering, according to an unofficial translation obtained yesterday by The Post.

The law does not define “community-based organisation”, however, and mandatory registration for NGOs and associations remains.

The Ministry of Interior retains the authority to accept or reject registrations in the new draft.

Few changes have been made in the new draft to provisions affecting foreign NGOs.

Representatives from the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, NGO Forum, The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee and Medicam will meet today with officials from the Ministry of Interior and possibly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Lun Borithy, executive director of CCC.

Phieng Someth, a staffer for the Independent Democracy and Informal Economy Association, said the second draft was “better than the first version”. He added, however, that he had a number of comments he would not be able to make because he will not be in the meeting.

The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights said in a statement yesterday that it would not attend the meeting in order to distance itself “from this token effort by the Royal Government of Cambodia to create the semblance of consensus regarding the NGO Law”.

Ou Virak, president of CCHR, said the law had been drafted in “utmost secrecy” and consultation had been limited to a single day for most NGOs.

“On a point of principle, CCHR will not engage in this process and risk being hoodwinked into offering it any degree of legitimacy,” Ou Virak said.

Nouth Sa An, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, could not be reached for comment.