Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NGOs statement related unsuccessul meeting with MoI and MoFA on March 29, 2011

Civil Society Organizations See No Progress with Second Draft of NGO Law

We, the civil society organizations (CSOs), express our sincere thanks for the opportunities to discuss the draft Law so far. However, we are deeply disappointed over the second draft of Cambodia’s Law on Associations and NGOs, which the government released on March 24, 2011.

The first draft of the law was released on Dec. 15, 2010, and was criticized as an attempt to impose government control over Cambodia’s civil society sector. In the second draft there remain many concerns which require extensive further discussion, but the government has refused requests.

“The majorities of the changes are minor and fail to address the fundamental concerns raised by CSOs.”” said Sok Sam Oeun, Executive Director of Cambodian Defender Project. “The new draft does not promote rights and freedom in forming Associations and NGOs but it is mandatory for registration.

A final discussion with Government was held on March 29. The meeting was actively participated by representatives of the NGO community. One representative from Siem Reap province noted that “most critical requests were flatly refused” Sem Sovantha, Executive Director of Angkor Association for the Disabled.

The most significant problem remains at the heart of the law: Registration is still mandatory. Under Article 6, NGOs and associations who do not register under the new law will not be permitted to operate. We collectively recommend that Article 6 be revised to make registration voluntary, or reworded to state that “non registered organizations can still operate but will not obtain legal status and benefits conferred under this law.”

The new draft also makes it easier for the government to shut down civil society organizations, or deny registration. The first draft of the law contained a limited appeal process in Article 18. This necessary process has been removed in the second draft; once an organization has been refused registration, the second draft offers no channels through which to challenge this decision.

Finally, some commentators have remarked positively on the new draft’s revision of Article 3, which defines the CSOs required to register.

“While the exclusion of People’s organizations which are locally established is a positive development, many key points and definitions remain unclear,” said Janardhan Rao, Director of Concern.

The government must clarify the precise scope and meaning of the exemption in Article 3 and other term that allow for subjectivity and ambiguity. The law requires a lexicon that will clarify terms.

For more information, please contact:

Mr Soeung Saroeun, CCC, Head of Programs, +855 16 900 503
Phnom Penh, March 29, 2011

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