A long-awaited draft law on NGOs would require that they report regularly to the government and would ban NGO assistance to political parties, according to a government presentation from August.
The proposed legislation, which has caused concern among NGOs, is still being reviewed by a joint committee of the ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs and could be subject to further changes.
A government official said yesterday that copies would be released to NGOs one or two weeks ahead of a planned workshop on the draft law, although NGOs have requested at least a month.
According to the presentation given in Phnom Penh on Aug 12 and 13, the draft law would require all NGOs to register with and provide activity reports to the government. International organizations would need to report quarterly and local organizations annually.
The draft law would also require NGOs to list staff members and their responsibilities, as well as sources of funding, and it would prohibit any financial or human resources assistance to political parties. Penalties would include fines and dissolution as a legal entity.
Nuth Sa An, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior and chairman of the committee on drafting the NGO law, said yesterday that the government made such a presentation in August but said he could not remember details of the draft law. Mr Sa An said a workshop to obtain input from NGOs on the draft law would be held as soon as December.
“We will send the draft law to the international NGOs two weeks beforehand and to the local NGOs one week prior to the workshop,” Mr Sa An said. “The international [NGOs] can have one week earlier than the national since they have to send the draft law abroad.”
Mr Sa An added that Interior Minister Sar Kheng had rejected the request to release the draft to NGOs a month in advance.
In a Sept 1 letter, the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, NGO Forum and Medicam asked the government to release a draft to the NGO community at least one month ahead of the planned workshop.
Medicam Executive Director Sin Somuny reiterated yesterday that NGOs needed at least one month to look at the draft law. Mr Somuny said he could not comment on the August presentation.
“I will make comment when we actually have a copy of the draft law because I cannot make comments based on a PowerPoint presentation,” Mr Somuny said, a sentiment echoed by CCC Executive Director Lun Borithy.
Pung Chhiv Kek, president of the human rights organization Licadho, questioned in an e-mail yesterday whether the law was necessary given existing legislation, such as the recently passed anticorruption law. She added that a prohibition on aid to political parties could be used to harass and even shut down NGOs.
“To sum up the feelings and opinions of the majority of NGOs, there is still the suspicion that the law is being advanced because NGOs support and advocate the implementation of a proper rule of law, independence of justice, and freedom of expression, which activities could easily be depicted as ‘support to opposition parties,'” Ms Chhiv Kek wrote.
Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said NGOs should not aid political parties because they “work for the public” and are “neutral.”
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann could not be reached for comment.