THE National Assembly today passed the controversial NGO law, amid a boycott by the opposition and street protests against the widely-criticised legislation.
After four hours of speeches commending the legislation and criticising their absent opposition counterparts, 68 ruling party lawmakers voted at about 12pm to send the law on associations and non-governmental organisations (LANGO) to the Senate.
During the session, Interior Minister Sar Kheng moved to allay widely-expressed concerns that the law would be wielded to crack down on civil society and inhibit freedom of speech, and questioned the basis of such concerns.
“This law is based on the Cambodia Constitution and international norms,” Kheng said.
“This is to ensure legal protection for associations and non-government organisations. I cannot understand why some other foreign countries are also against this law. We have prepared this law based on their laws. Why can they have [such a law] and Cambodia cannot?”
Opponents include hundreds of NGOs, the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.
They cite mandatory registration, onerous reporting requirements, provisions stating groups must be politically neutral and the government’s unchecked power to block registrations and dissolve groups as among their concerns.
Nearby, at Wat Ounalom, hundreds of people rallied in protest, the latest in several public demonstrations against the law.