More than 60 international NGOs submitted a letter to Minister of Interior Sar Kheng yesterday requesting that the government halt the advancement of its controversial draft NGO law “until it is substantially re-written” to address civil society concerns.
“As it stands, the draft law inherently undermines its primary purpose, ‘to promote the practice of rights and freedoms of Khmer citizens in registering associations and domestic non-governmental organisations in order to jointly and lawfully protect personal and public interest’,” 62 organisations said in the letter, which was made public yesterday.
“Restrictive, ambiguous, and allowing for unfettered discretion, the draft does more harm than good to associations, NGOs and the Cambodian public,” it said.
The organisations emphasised mandatory registration, the lack of any process to appeal government decisions about NGO operations, and a number of ambiguities in the draft as particularly concerning provisions.
The organisations said their good-faith engagement with the government had “failed”.
They said, however, that they would “offer our full support” to a revised law that would be consistent with international human rights standards and include voluntary registration.
Nouth Sa An, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, said yesterday he had not yet seen the letter and could not comment on proposed revisions.
He had previously told The Post that he would be sending the draft law to the Council of Ministers “the first week of April”, yesterday, however he said he did not know when he would advance the controversial legislation.