Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM says NGO law to be passed soon

PM says NGO law to be passed soon

Prime Minister Hun Sen
Prime Minister Hun Sen interacts with children yesterday at the Center for Deaf and Mute Children in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district where he said that civil society will not be consulted on the NGO draft law. PHOTO SUPPLIED

PM says NGO law to be passed soon

A contentious draft law aimed at regulating Cambodia’s NGOs could be passed by the National Assembly as early as next month, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday.

“[The draft law] is a matter of disagreement, but the government has had it drafted since 2012,” Hun Sen said during a speech at the Centre for Deaf and Mute Children in Phnom Penh. “It will pass through the Council of Ministers no later than May before it is sent to the National Assembly, and the draft law will be passed without any obstacles.”

The Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations, which has been in the works since at least 2006, has been a cause of concern for many activists who say the complex registration process and stringent annual reporting demands on finances and other activities are a thinly veiled attempt to curtail their freedom of movement.

Without naming names, Hun Sen asserted that the same NGOs calling for transparency in government must be candid about their operations and funding sources, saying they could otherwise hide that they are supporting or being bankrolled by international terrorist groups or organised crime syndicates.

“Previously, we dissolved one NGO suspected of financing terrorists, and another suspected of money laundering,” he said. “We are going to die if [they] are financed by al-Qaeda [or] ISIS, and we cannot control it.”

Hun Sen also lashed out at NGOs he said have attacked Cambodia’s human rights record and sent reports to the UN with the goal of obtaining funding from international donors.

“In 2005, during the ASEAN-UN Summit in New York, I informed [then-UN secretary-general] Kofi Annan that I didn’t expect a good human rights report on Cambodia, since a good report would mean no jobs for human rights activists in Cambodia. This is the reality,” he said.

Still, Hun Sen assured that the law was not meant to put NGOs out of business – just those that are not registered.

“If you are not registered, you will be handcuffed,” he said, adding later that “the aim of the law is not to bar the activities of NGOs; the aim of the law is to ensure transparency”.

While some activists agree that disclosing financials is necessary, others see the law as a bid to control a sector that has routinely picked up the slack in a country where many services normally performed by the government remain the domain of NGOs.

“It is legitimate and appropriate to require NGOs to disclose their sources of funding and how the funds are spent,” said Kol Preap, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia. “[But] there is concern that the purpose of this NGO law is to further restrict freedom and to control the activities of NGOs.”

In the view of Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) adviser Billy Tai, “Hun Sen has a vested interest in trying to legitimise the law, especially after the recent chatter around it as well as the [UN] human rights committee’s concluding observations.”

Ny Chakrya, head of local human rights NGO Adhoc, voiced concern that the law would simply limit the work of NGOs in the Kingdom.

“The government has always considered NGOs the enemy,” he said. “The criticism [of the government] by NGOs shows that the government has much work to do [in terms of] respecting human rights in Cambodia.”

Charya further insisted that there are already many relevant laws on the books that control NGOs, so there is no use passing a specific law to monitor them.

MOST VIEWED

  • Gov’t not using EU aid for poor

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday refuted as “baseless”, claims that the government had used financial aid from the EU to implement the programme to identify and support poor and vulnerable people during the Covid-19 pandemic. The prime minister was responding to Roth Sothy, a

  • PM to vet NY holiday dates

    The Ministry of Economy and Finance submitted a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking him to formally set a five-day national holiday from August 17-21 to make up for the Khmer New Year holiday in April that was postponed. Finance minister Aun Pornmoniroth sent

  • Cambodia rejects UN rights claim

    Cambodia's Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva on Friday hit back at David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression after he raised concerns over the repression of free speech and

  • Snaring may spawn diseases

    The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned that snaring of animals has become a crisis that poses a serious risk to wildlife in Southeast Asia and could spawn the transmission of zoonotic diseases to humans. Its July 9 report entitled Silence of the Snares: Southeast Asia’

  • Ex-party leader, gov’t critic named as secretary of state

    A former political party leader known for being critical of the government has been appointed secretary of state at the Ministry of Rural Development, a royal decree dated July 9 said. Sourn Serey Ratha, the former president of the Khmer Power Party (KPP), told The Post

  • Residence cards set for over 80,000 immigrants

    The Ministry of Interior plans to grant residence cards to more than 80,000 immigrants to better keep track of them. The ministry announced the plan on July 10, following the results of an immigration census. “An inter-ministerial committee and many operational working groups have been set up

  • Kingdom produces PPE gear

    Medical supplies from Cambodia have been donated to member countries of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to assist in the fight against Covid-19, said an ADB report published on July 9. The report stated that the supplies were donated as a response to global efforts to

  • Kingdom, US vow stronger ties

    At an academic forum on Saturday to celebrate 70 years of Cambodia-US diplomatic ties, Cambodian researchers and officials expressed hope of encouraging US investments and for that country to deepen and improve its bilateral relations. Held at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, it reviewed the past 70

  • ‘Single Portal’ integrated registration system welcomes nearly 50 firms

    Forty-seven companies have successfully registered via a newly-launched information technology e-business registration platform as of the end of the second week of this month, Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Phan Phalla said. Six ministries and state-run institutions have been integrated into a

  • Battambang artist brings giant animals to life

    The giant reptile’s gaping mouth appears ready to consume its latest victim. It stands taller than a person and is incredibly life-like with authentic colours, a long spiky tail and detailed scales adorning its entire body. If it wasn’t 13m long, you may