Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NGOs proclaim neutrality

NGOs proclaim neutrality

NGOs proclaim neutrality

I NTERNATIONAL and local non-government organizations (NGOs) are seeking to distance

themselves from Cambodia's increasingly acrimonious political arena, ahead of communal

and national polls scheduled to be held by the end of 1998.

A June 5 statement from the Committee for Cooperation on Cambodia (CCC) affirmed

the non-partisan nature of the aid organizations and urged the government and political

parties to respect NGO's neutrality.

The declaration comes amid fears that in the lead-up to elections political parties

will turn to the NGO community to advance their own interests.

"This is a pro-active stance in advance of serious problems. Its an attempt

to clear the water before it gets muddy," said CCC executive director, Carole

Garrison.

Garrison noted that it was inevitable that NGOs' activities became enmeshed in

politics given that the country's administration was still deeply linked to political

interests.

"[The CCC statement] is trying to put some Teflon on the NGOs that will help

the politicization slip off them as they go about their tasks," explained the

CCC director.

Already NGO workers say they are feeling pressure from parties.

One provincial worker for a large international NGO described an occasion where

the organization had refused to accompany local authorities on a rural aid-giving

mission lest the NGO's contribution be construed as partisan.

"That would have created a positive impression for one political party through

our assistance and we don't want to be associated with that," said the aid worker.

She noted that the problem could become particularly intense in former Khmer Rouge

held areas throughout the northwestern provinces, as Funcinpec and the CPP battle

to woo the loyalty of villagers there.

Chea Vannath, vice president of the Center for Social Development (CSD), a local

NGO, lamented the fact that the need to "balance" political interests sometimes

took priority over development objectives.

As well, Vannath acknowledged that more explicit political pressures had hampered

her organization's work. She recalled a recent CSD Public Forum on social issues

held in Phnom Penh for Kandal province villagers.

"When they returned to the village, the sub-district chief called them into

the office and asked them why they had gone to Phnom Penh and for what purpose,"

she recalled.

"Then he said, 'If something happens [to the villagers] the local authorities

won't be responsible.' That's intimidation," said Vannath.

In addition to overt intimidation and other cases where political parties were

clearly setting up their own NGOs, Vannath said that aid organizations' activities

were often compromised due to their need to work closely with local authorities to

get their job done. As a result, NGOs could be seen as biased toward the local official's

political affiliation.

"We have to make it clear that what we're doing is non-partisan," said

the CSD official, and urged other NGOs to resist the political tug.

" We, the organizations, play the game of politicians, instead of doing our

job. We need to play the NGO game," she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • Cambodia's poverty cut in half from 2009 to 2019: World Bank report

    A report published by the World Bank on November 28 states that Cambodia’s national poverty rate fell by almost half between 2009 and 2019, but the Covid-19 pandemic recently reversed some of the poverty reduction progress. Cambodia’s poverty rate dropped from 33.8 to 17.8 per cent over the 10