Unveiled NGO Law Will ‘Redress Irregularities’

Details of a much anticipated law to regulate non-governmental organizations and civil society groups were unveiled Wednesday at a public seminar in Phnom Penh.

Interior Ministry Undersecretary of State Sieng Lapresse told a seminar on human rights, democratization and reform in Cambodia, which was funded by the European Commission, that enforcement of the new law would “redress serious irregularities of NGO activities.”

Sieng Lapresse said that he was ready to challenge any civil society complaints about the draft legislation, adding that the group drafting the law had been working with representatives from the government and civil society.

“Thirty-five NGOs agreed with the establishment of the NGO law,” Sieng Lapresse told the seminar, but “they wish that the process of enacting of the law will proceed at a slow pace, like a snail.”

The government is “determined to enact the NGO law before the end of the fourth term,” he said.

The law requires NGOs and as­sociations to fill out application forms requiring information about “goals and objectives, structure, roles, duties of the organization and functioning of the governing body, sources of resources and property,” Sieng Lapresse said.

Also required are rules of administration and management of re­sources and property, roles and du­ties of the chairman and the governing body, policies of recruitment, termination, dismissal, and transfer and removal of the chairman and of the governing body, he added.

Seated next to Sieng Lapresse at the seminar, Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, de­cli­ned to give a direct response to the undersecretary, but said that the NGO law should not be a priority.

“Up until now, civil society has never caused any disaster or catastrophe to people or society,” Thun Saray said.

When it comes to financial management, he added, “civil society in general is checked regularly by in­ternational auditing companies, and those companies are required by donors to prevent corruption from taking place.”

Thun Saray went on to say there were other more important laws to enact, such as the criminal and civil codes, the anti-corruption law, a law on freedom of information, a law on the conditions of jud­ges, and an amendment of the law on the Su­preme Council of Magistracy.

“Those are all the laws that have most the importance for court system reform and transparent governance that the nation needs,” Thun Saray said.

Tuot Lux, Secretary of State at the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection, said Wednesday that he didn’t know when the anti-corruption draft law would go before the Na­tional Assembly.

Tuot Lux added that the latest draft, which has 11 chapters with 92 articles, was still at the Council of Min­isters, waiting for the government to finish drafting the criminal procedure code first. That code will contain about 700 articles, almost 400 of which are complete, he said.

“It has to wait,” Tuot Lux said of the anti-corruption law, adding that the draft is a third priority after the criminal procedure code and the law on financial budget.

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