Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NGOs have nothing to fear - Govt

NGOs have nothing to fear - Govt

NGOs have nothing to fear - Govt

THE Ministers of Interior say concern about a draft law on the registration of NGOs

is unfounded.

"The purpose...is not to oppress NGOs and associations, but on the contrary

to provide protection to genuine NGOs and associations," Sar Kheng and You Hockry

wrote this week in reply to criticism of the law.

Arguing that the law was an attempt to balance the NGO freedoms with governmnt concerns,

the ministers said it would protect "legitimate NGOs by preventing fraudulent

conduct by fake NGOs that do not work in the public interest."

Earlier, 24 Khmer NGOs complained about the law's requirements for NGOs to register

with the ministry, and file annual reports on their activities and finances, or face

fines and deregistration.

The NGOs, under the auspices of the Cambodian Human Rights Coordination Committee,

wrote to National Assembly president Chea Sim, legislation commission head Chhuor

Leang Huot and human rights commission chief Kem Sokha. The letter said that the

law's registration and reporting requirements - and a penalty of up to $800 for failure

to meet them - constituted a declaration of war on NGOs.

"If the ministry wants to know about spending of organizations, it can ask the

donors for that information and should not impose this kind of pressure on local

associations," the letter said, urging the fine for non-compliance be removed

or reduced.

In a reply to the three Parliamentarians, the Ministers of Interior wrote that the

law would encourage transparency within and among NGOs.

They said that the government was entitled to know how NGOs spent their money and

whether their work was in the public interest, especially since they would get tax

exemptions.

The law would not breach the Constitutional right to the freedom of association,

the ministers said, adding that they would meet with NGOs to discuss their concerns.

The law has yet to be approved by the Council of Ministers.

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