CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun said Monday that he would hold a workshop on a controversial draft law aiming to regulate the country’s multimillion-dollar NGO sector if it gets sent to his commission at the National Assembly, while the opposition insisted that such a meeting would be too late.
NGOs have been up in arms about a three-year-old version of the draft—the latest iteration available—worried the government could use certain provisions to shut down groups and associations it doesn’t like with little to no explanation or accountability. The Council of Ministers could send the draft to the National Assembly as soon as Friday, and has ignored calls to release the current draft and open it up for public debate.
Last week, Mr. Vun, who chairs the National Assembly’s foreign affairs commission, said he believed the Assembly should get more input on the draft from NGOs if and when it passes the prime minister’s cabinet. On Monday, he said he would hold a meeting to solicit input if he gets the chance.
“If I receive the law from the [National Assembly’s] standing committee, I will have discussions and do research; I will have a consultation at the National Assembly as in the past, like a workshop,” he said.
Along with the Interior Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry led the way in drafting the law. But it will still be up to the standing committee to decide which of the Assembly’s nine commissions—probably more than one—to ask for feedback before a vote.
But NGOs say that will be too late, that the government should meet with them over the latest draft before it gets to the Assembly in order to give the law the public airing it deserves.
On Monday, the opposition CNRP backed them up.
In a statement, the party urged the government “to guarantee an open and transparent procedure for the draft law on associations and non-government organizations to make it easy for stakeholders and the Khmer people to give their opinions…at a public consultation before the draft law is passed to the National Assembly for approval.”
The law would require associations and NGOs to register with the government and file annual reports on their finances and activities. However, the last version made public, in 2011, lacks a clear list of reasons the government could deny registration, and would allow it to shut down foreign NGOs that “jeopardize” the “customs and traditions of the Cambodian national society.”