In a statement yesterday, four NGO umbrella groups urged the government to make this Monday’s consultation on the controversial draft NGO law “the starting point in a continued dialogue” and asked for the creation of a working group to address concerns.
The law would severely restrict the work of NGOs, “as it places significant barriers on their registration and implementation of their work,” the statement read.
Nuth Sa An, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, said the requests could be made at the consultation meeting. “We have to wait until the meeting takes place. I dare not to say anything. It depends on my superior,” Mr Sa An said, referring to Interior Minister Sar Kheng.
The statement, signed by the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, The NGO Forum on Cambodia, Medicam and the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, echoes the concerns of other NGO’s. In a briefing paper released this month, rights group Licadho said there were many problems with the draft, from “intrusive” reporting requirements to restrictions on freedom of association to “unreasonable restraints” on foreign NGOs.
Licadho said NGOs and donors “should adopt the position that they will boycott any law on associations or NGOs which does not adequately protect their independence and other rights.”
Licadho director Naly Pilorge said yesterday that “there are enough existing rules to administer NGOs and associations.”
But Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said the draft legislation would place NGOs under the law. “If they want to be independent, they should go to a country where they can stay alone,” he said.
In a statement, the UN Office of the Resident Coordinator called the consultative process in the drafting of laws “crucial,” and said Monday’s consultation would “provide an opportunity for concerns around the current draft law to be raised and for clarifications to be shared.”