Government Updates NGO Law, Discusses Changes With Groups

Government officials on Thur­s­day released an updated draft of the proposed NGO law and are scheduled to meet today with nongovernmental groups for the third time to discuss the legislation, the Interior Ministry said yesterday.

While welcoming the chance to discuss a new draft, NGOs said they still harbored concerns over the document’s scope and language, which requires NGOs and associations to register as well as submit reports on activities, budgets and future plans.

Nuth Sa An, Interior Ministry secretary of state, said that he believed NGOs had enough time to review the changes, but when asked about various alterations he said there were too many to recall.

“I could not remember,” he said. “You have to wait until the meeting takes place.”

Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum, an umbrella or­ganization, said that while groups were prepared to meet, more time was always appreciated.

“We are ready to discuss and dialogue with the government,” he said, adding that 11 representatives would meet with the government and the gathering would likely be behind closed doors.

Today’s meeting follows a public consultation on Jan 10, and a closed-door meeting with a handful of groups later that month at which government officials verbally agreed to accept most of their suggested changes.

At least one NGO, however, has rejected the upcoming meeting. The Cambodian Center for Human Rights said yesterday that the meeting was only paying lip service to hammering out the draft law.

“CCHR has decided, out of principle, not to engage with other NGOs and provide any input into the consultation, so as to [distance] itself from this token effort by the [government] to create the semblance of consensus regarding the NGO law,” the organization said in a statement.

Ou Virak, CCHR president, said the meetings featured a selected group of NGOs that could not en­compass the nation’s substantial civil society community.

“If the process is more open, we will definitely be a part of it,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)


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