UN’s Kiai adds to NGO law chorus

UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai at the Council of Ministers in 2014.
UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai at the Council of Ministers in 2014. Hong Menea

UN’s Kiai adds to NGO law chorus

Just one day after the government hit out at the United Nations for criticising its controversial draft NGO law, a UN human rights expert yesterday heaped more criticism on the proposed legislation.

In a statement, Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, reiterated his call to the government to “ensure that civil society can meaningfully contribute to the elaboration” of the law, which is expected to be adopted by the National Assembly this month.

“It is ironic that the drafting of a law regulating civil society in Cambodia excludes civil society from the process,” he said, adding that he has “serious concerns about a process that would result in the adoption of the LANGO [Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations] without meaningful public participation”.

The legislation has been heavily criticised for the secrecy in which it was drafted and sent to the Council of Ministers.

But, Kiai noted, “sidestepping the democratic process by leaving out civil society actors and their important contribution from the process, and avoiding international scrutiny of legislation, is not without precedent in Cambodia”.

Kiai, who visited the Kingdom in 2014, urged the government to publicise the text and allow for public consultation. He said he would be on hand for “any expert advice” the government may need.

But the government has so far not taken kindly to such opinions.

On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong met with five UN representatives to let them know that their comments about the law were not welcome.

“There are no words allowing you to comment or criticise the royal government about the draft law, which is not under your mandate,” he said.

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