Gov’t Rejects NGOs’ Criticism on Development

Government officials Sunday rejected criticism from local NGOs, which claim that the Cambodian government is failing to meet its long-standing development commitments made in consultation with the country’s largest aid donors.

In advance of today’s ninth quarterly meeting of the Government-Donor Coordination Committee, a host of rights groups issued statements criticizing the government for its lack of progress in legal reform, indigenous land rights and the fight against corruption.

“NGOs observe that Govern­ment has yet again failed to meet the June 2006 deadline for completion of the draft anticorruption law,” read a statement issued by the NGO Committee for the Monitor­ing of CG Indicators.

At the committee’s previous meeting in October, Japanese Ambassador Takahashi Fumiaki had issued a stinging rebuke of the government’s failure to pass the long-awaited anticorruption law.

Government officials are working to complete that draft law, National Assembly President Heng Samrin said Sunday. “We have tried hard but we are not finished yet,” he said. “We must produce an updated law that goes well with the current situation.”

Regarding land concessions, the NGO statement read, “It is noted that the Government’s attempts at regulating have failed.”

Land policy was also stressed in an open letter to donor countries and agencies by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Adhoc and the Community Legal Educa­tion Center on Thursday, in which they claimed that a new draft policy on indigenous land rights could violate the 2001 Land Law and legalize land-grabbing.

A draft policy, recently issued by the Council of Land Policy, sets ar­bitrary limits on the size of registered spirit forest and burial grounds and could impose particular land uses on indigenous communities, the letter says.

Land Policy Council Secretary-General Chea Sophara on Sunday rejected the claims in the letter. “We have prepared well,” Chea Sophara said of the council’s policy paper.

As for commitments to donors, Cambodia, and not diplomats or NGOs, knows the country’s interests best, Heng Samrin said. “No countries can pressure Cambodia. Cambodia must make the decisions,” he said.


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