Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Student group suspended for ‘violating law on NGOs’




Student group suspended for ‘violating law on NGOs’

Leng Seng Hong, Federation of Cambodian Intellectuals and Students president, seen at an event earlier this year.
Leng Seng Hong, Federation of Cambodian Intellectuals and Students president, seen at an event earlier this year. Facebook

Student group suspended for ‘violating law on NGOs’

A student group was suspended by the Ministry of Interior yesterday for a series of violations of the Law on Associations and Non-governmental Organisations (Lango), including the highly controversial Article 24, which requires organisations to remain “politically neutral”.

The suspension of the Federation of Cambodian Intellectuals and Students comes less than a week since the Phnom Penh Municipal Court summonsed group leader Leng Seng Hong for questioning after he called for peaceful protests in the event of the CNRP’s dissolution.

“The Ministry of Interior decided to temporarily suspend the activities of Federation of Cambodian Intellectuals and Students for 60 days starting from today,” a ministry statement released yesterday says.

The statement orders the group to rectify its mistakes, submit proper paperwork and return to neutrality, or face legal action and possible dissolution.

At the time Lango was passed, leading local rights groups, including Adhoc, Licadho and the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), said Article 24, among others, was “unconstitutional”. All three groups recommended removing the article, with CCHR claiming it is “contrary to the right to freedom of expression”.

According to Licadho documents, sent to a reporter by Deputy Director of Advocacy Naly Pilorge, this is the first time an NGO has been targeted for violation of Article 24.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak declined to answer questions about the case.

When asked if Article 24 had been invoked before, he said “your newspaper should have more documents than me”.

Seng Hong himself has been summonsed to answer questions related to “incitement to commit a crime”, despite advocating specifically for peaceful protests, a right guaranteed under Cambodian law. Seng Hong could not be reached yesterday.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, called the move “rights violating” and “totally absolutely unacceptable”.

Speaking via email yesterday, Robertson said Lango is a “politically driven battle axe against civil society” and repeated calls for donor countries to take concrete action against the Cambodian government.

Cambodian analyst Lao Mong Hay said the violation of neutrality was only an issue because Seng Hong spoke out against the government.

“For those opposed to the government’s policies, if anyone uses their legs, they will cut off their legs. If they use their hands, they will cut off their hands,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hungarian exposes 90 to Covid in Siem Reap

    The Ministry of Health has discovered 90 people who have been exposed directly or indirectly to a Hungarian man infected with Covid-19. They all are required to quarantine at home and the hospital. The ministry is searching for other affected people. Among the 90, one is the

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • PM warns of ‘new Cold War’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the possibility of a so-called new Cold War has become a significant concern and that all countries have to reject outright, any attempt to allow history to tragically repeat itself. He made the remarks in a speech during 75th Session

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped