The government has created a new interministerial committee to manage the activities of international NGOs, with an Interior Ministry official yesterday saying the body was intended to monitor organisations’ compliance with the controversial NGO Law.
The directive, signed on December 5 and published in the latest Royal Book, sets up a 33-member committee to ensure implementation of the Law on Associations and NGOs (Lango) among foreign institutions, demarcating the duties of each ministry.
The Economy Ministry is tasked with monitoring the tax obligations of NGOs, with the National Bank asked to track their financial operations. The committee is headed by the Interior Ministry’s Pol Lim, along with Foreign Ministry officials Ouch Borith and Keo Rith.
“We have not had a meeting yet. We had created the subcommittee to sit down with the Foreign Ministry to see which NGOs have signed a [memorandum of understanding], and how many NGOs are there and from which country,” said Lim.
Last year, the US-funded National Democratic Institute was shuttered for not having an MoU with the government, though the NGO maintained the government had not processed its application. It had previously been accused of aiding the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party. Local NGOs often critical of the government were also slapped with Lango-related tax notices by authorities.
Asked if more NGOs would be investigated following NDI’s closure, Lim would only say that the committee would look into all foreign NGOs’ activities.
San Chey, head of accountability group ANSA, said the development was concerning because it left interpretation of Lango up to the new committee.