Thursday, August 25, 2011

Joint letter about the draft of NGOs Law in Cambodia signed by 10 INGOs

Please find link below about sample joint letter about the Law on Associations & NGO Law (LANGO) signed by 10 INGOs which was emailed to 35 foreign ministers and Baroness Catherine Ashton an hour ago. The list of foreign ministers and sample letter will be emailed in English/Khmer (translation in Khmer will be finalized tomorrow) to media inside and outside Cambodia tomorrow morning. Please link here to see the statement were sent to US secretary of state. 

We encourage you to forward these two documents to your NGO partners, your members, your headquarters, your membership organizations inside/outside Cambodia, your donors, your embassies, your members of parliament/congress and anyone else or any other group that would be receptive to this letter. As this is an open letter, do not hesitate to post it on your web sites, facebook, twitter, newsletters and any other public notice or social media.

Please note that Amnesty International is finalizing a similar letter which will also be sent to the same foreign ministers in the next couple of days. Please link here to see all institutions were be sent the statement. 

We also attaching the latest report by Surya Subedi (UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of HR in Cambodia) who will present this report in Geneva on  Sept. 28, 2011. The report includes very brief sections on the LANGO and Trades Union Law. Please click here to see  report UN special raporteur.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

The NGO Forum’s Public Statement relating meeting with Ministry


The NGO Forum on Cambodia (NGOF) is a membership organization made up of 87 local and international non-governmental organizations, as well as more than 200 network member organizations with experience in humanitarian and development assistance to Cambodia. The NGOF exists for information-sharing, debate, and advocacy on priority issues affecting Cambodia’s development. The NGOF plays an important role by highlighting the impact of development processes, as well as economic, social, and political changes, on Cambodians.

NGOF confirms that a meeting took place on 18th August 2011 between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and NGOF together with an international NGO.  

During the meeting, a warning letter was issued to NGOF and the international NGO.  This was in relation to a letter written by the NGOF and other NGOs to the President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in October 2010, which had raised some concerns in relation to resettlement impacts from the Railway project. Subsequently, NGOF informed its members and donors. NGOF is currently in the process of responding to this letter.

NGOF has maintained meaningful dialogue and has exhibited good cooperation with the Royal Government of Cambodia in the past and will continue to engage with the Royal Government. We are confident that this meaningful dialogue and cooperation with the Cambodian government will continue to contribute to equitable and sustainable development in Cambodia.



The NGO Forum on Cambodia
Tel: (855) 23 -214 429
Date: 21 August 2011

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Discussing on current status of NGOs activity and draft law of NGO


Last week on Friday, August 12, 2011, Comfrel radio broadcast on live about the discussion on current situation of an NGO which were suspended activity by Ministry of Interior and also speakers discussed about the content of draft of NGOs law.

The person who speak this radio talk show were Lawyers and researchers. If you want to listen this discussing, please download or go to original source: http://www.comfrel.org/newcomfrel/index.php?option=com_civilsocietyvoice2&catid=182&view=voc&Itemid=1120

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NGO and Associations Joint Statement on the Third draft of the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations


We, civil society organizations, including associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), appreciate that state-civil society cooperation has been a key factor in the development of Cambodia from a war-torn country to a peaceful, vibrant developing country. While government and civil society organizations have often held different opinions, these bodies have met in constructive discussions and cooperated.

The proposed NGO legislation indicates a departure from this successful path. Civil society organizations, including associations and NGOs, are very concerned that the third draft of the law grants far-reaching power to government authorities to control the rights of citizens to organize and express themselves. These rights are set out in the Cambodian Constitution (Articles 31, 35 and 42) and international treaties that Cambodia has signed and ratified, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 2(1)) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (Articles 14, 22).

The diversity of civil society in Cambodia is our strength and demonstrates the important range of perspectives the sector contributes to Cambodia’s development. We have now collectively drawn together voices from this broad base into all our discussions on the Law on Associations and NGOs (NGO Law), and there have been many responses. Some organizations have argued that there should be no such law, while others decided to engage with the government in consultation in an attempt to improve the draft law. Others chose to lobby on specific issues within the law. All these organizations have kept a dialogue throughout, respecting each other’s perspectives. This is what democracy is about.

Today we all stand together. Regardless of our separate approaches to addressing the law, our opinion is united: the draft law we now see before us is unacceptable.

We understand that a sovereign state such as Cambodia has the right to promulgate laws, regulations and practices in accordance with international democratic principles. However, the process of enacting laws must respect those democratic principles. Moreover, new laws must not infringe upon the fundamental rights of the people, including their rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression. The social and economic development of Cambodia in recent years would never have happened if the opportunities to freely organize and express opinions had been curtailed. Successful development of societies worldwide goes hand-in-hand with increased openness.

In our view, the third draft of the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations has not changed substantially from the second draft. It continues to fail to respect the fundamental rights outlined above.

We would like to point out four main areas of concern in the third draft:
1                    Registration is mandatory and complex, rather than voluntary and simple.
2                    There are no safeguards to insure that either denials of registration or involuntary dissolutions are imposed objectively.
3                    The lawdoes not include a time period for an appeals process for the denial of registration.
4                    Key terms in the law are left undefined, and many sections are vague.

Registration is mandatory and complex, rather than voluntary and simple: Article 6 on Prohibiting Provisions remains effectively unchanged. A clause has been added which states that unregistered associations or NGOs will not enjoy any benefit from the law. However, this is effectively undermined by the second part of the clause, which states that such organizations may not operate in the name of an association or NGO. Registration is thus mandatory and unregistered groups are banned. There is also no provision allowing for associations and NGOs to remain active while their registration and re-registration applications are pending, despite the lengthy time period allowed for those processes. As such, the draft law’s mandatory registration requirements constitute restrictions on the freedom of association, which violate the rights given to Cambodian citizens under the Cambodian Constitution and principles which Cambodia has promised to adhere to under Article 22 of the ICCPR. Under Article 22, and other major human rights covenants, “freedom of association is a right, and not something that must first be granted by the government to citizens.”

There are no safeguards to insure that either denials of registration or involuntary dissolutions are imposed objectively: Articles 17 and 32, which deal with applications for registration and requests for Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), lack important safeguards such as objective standards for review. These articles undermine Article 65 of the Civil Code. Similarly, Articles 49 and 50 allow the involuntary suspension, dissolution or termination of associations and NGOs but fail to include any guidance as to the circumstances under which such penalties may be imposed.

The law does not include a time period for an appeals process for the denial of registration: Although we recognize the inclusion of the right to appeal in Article 17, this appeal process remains undefined. Both domestic and foreign entities should be provided with a written explanation in case of denial, and both should be entitled to appeal that denial in court on an expedited basis and be allowed to operate while the court proceeding takes place.
Key terms in the law are left undefined, and many sections are vague: Clarification of various terms in the draft law is needed; the law should incorporate a Glossary of Terms as well as Explanatory Notes for every article.

During the consultation process, civil society organizations have clearly pointed out these weaknesses. We are deeply disappointed that the third draft fails to address these main areas of concern.

We, the undersigned associations and NGOs, therefore collectively and respectfully call on the Royal Government of Cambodia to reconsider our key recommendations and incorporate them in the next draft of the Law. We also ask that the final draft be shared publicly before it is approved by the Council of Ministers or reviewed and voted on by the National Assembly. 



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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Introduction to the findings of a study on land conflicts throughout Cambodia


·        
      Monday, August 15, 2011 Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) will organize press conference relating Land Issued in Cambodia. Please link here to see the announcement about the press conference.

      According to Cambodian Center for Human Rights research, 224 land disputes have been reported on in the public domain in the last 4 years since 2007. The information presented here is taken from publicly available sources – mostly Khmer and English media reports and reports by non-government organizations – with additional information obtained through field research conducted by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”).

·         The cases recorded by CCHR demonstrate that at least 5% of Cambodia’s total land area is subject to a conflict or has been in the last four years.   

·         The province with the highest number of land conflicts, according to our findings, is Phnom Penh with 10% of total land conflicts occurring in the province containing the country’s capital and largest city. This was followed by Banteay Meanchey– which is the North West side of Cambodia and borders Thailand – and Ratanakiri – in the North East bordering Vietnam and Laos; CCHR’s findings show that both provinces are the scene of 8% of land conflicts recorded.  The provinces of Battambang, Kampong Speu , and Preah Sihanouk are each the scene of 7% of reported land conflicts.

       For more information please link to original website: www.ccchrcambodia.org or http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Cambodian-Center-for-Human-Rights-CCHR/206984670430

The Poor Appeal Public about the Filing Fee is burden their living condition


Press Release
Phnom Penh, 14 August 2011


We, the representatives of 51 family villagers living in Lor Peang village, Taches commune, Kampong Tralach district, Kampong Chhnang province, who are affected by a long-lasting land dispute with KDC International Company which is owned by H.E. Mrs. Chea Kheng, would like to inform and invite the members of the local and international media on “The Costs of Subject-matter of Civil Action and Poverty of Villagers Living in Lor Peang Village, Taches Commune, Kampong Tralach District, Kampong Chhnang Province”.

Date: Monday 15 August 2011 at 8:30 am

Place: ADHOC Central Office, Phnom Penh
Address: #1, Street 158, Sangkat Boeung Raing, Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh

The Press Conference is organized with the objective to inform and make a request to Kampong Thom Provincial Court to strongly consider the current status of poverty of the villagers who cannot afford to pay the costs of subject-matter of civil action. Through this conference, the villagers are expected to be given humanitarian assistance and financial support from various generous people so that they can claim back their lands from the long-lasting dispute with a private KDC International company.

Pleased be informed on this important issue. Your presence in this conference is very important for us and our lives.

More information, please contact:
Mr. Reach Seima                     Tel: 078 310 336
Mr. Pheng Rom                       Tel: 097 463 599 6



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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Is there any regulations provide authority to Ministry of Interior of Cambodia to suspend activities of Non Governmental Organization?




Recently, Ministry of Interior Issued its letter to suspend an Non Governmental Organization. The letter just provided reason that this association didn’t correct the structure of leadership management and amend its articles of incorporation (statute). Please link here in Khmer version to see Ministry of Interior decision.

The below is the analysis of Ministry of Interior decision to suspend NGOs activities:
Ministry of Interior has only one regulation that covers NGOs activity. On July 6, 1994(link here to see it in Khmer version)—- “…the permission issuance, in order to have the uniform throughout the country, for various associations/NGOs to operate one’s offices and activities, so as to facilitate the management of those associations/NGOs and in compliance with the actual situations that did not have the law on associations yet, the Ministry of Interior would not delegate its authorization to the provinces/municipalities for issuing permission to the association/NGO situated thereof. In this matter, if there would have any association/NGO requested the permission from the provincial/ municipal administration to operate its office and activities thereof, please His Excellency introduced them to come and request the permission from the Ministry of Interior in advance. In case, any association /NGO that had already positioned its office in the province/municipality and had purposes to conduct the vocational teaching, to launch its assembly, or to conduct the seminar or various gatherings, such an association/NGO must have informed the local authority within five (05) days in advance”.

The government may suspend NGOs activity in condition of such NGOs do something illegally in which influence the public interest. In Civil Code and Law on Implementation of Civil Code provided authorization to Minster of Justice to issue its warning letter to the legal entity. If such organization still not corrects its activity, the Minster of Justice can file a complaint to court to delete such association from the list, please read article 65 paragraph 3 of Civil Code.  However Civil Code is not entered into force yet so Minister of Justice cannot use his or her authority to do that.
Nowadays NGOs are under the authority of Ministry of Interior (MoI), if MoI wants to suspend the NGO activity, MOI can file a complaint to Court to suspend such NGOs activities based Code of Civil Procedure of article 531 paragraph 3 (provisional disposition for establishing of provisional status) “Disposition establishing a provisional condition until a judgment becomes final and conclusive, where this is necessary in order to avoid significant damage or imminent risk [to the creditor] in relation to the right in dispute”.For more information regarding the procedure of Preservative Relief Ruling, please read from page 193 of Textbook on Compulsory Execution and Preservative Relief, published by Ministry of Justice of Cambodia, 2009. Please download this book in Khmer version, if you need for your reference.

The organization that received the order of suspension activities from MoI, it has right to make objection against such decision by filing a complaint to court of first instance based on article 38 and 128 new (old article 109) of Cambodian Constitution.
The above decision it’s thought that it’s unconstitutional because based on article 42 of constitution in 1993 provided freedom of association. Cambodian people also enjoy their freedom of association base on ICCPR, ICESR and so on (article 31 constitution). For more information, please link the book on Legal Framework of NGOs in Cambodia, page 8 and from page 29 in English version and Page 10 and from page 34 of Khmer Version. 


Friday, August 12, 2011

Cambodian NGOs community issued join statement regarding Ministry of Interior Suspended SST activity


The members of NGOs start reacted the decision of Ministry of Interior to suspend one organization. 

Now they need you to support their join statement. This statement condom the government that issued its decision without legal basis.And it's also said that it's time for government that want to restrict the activity of NGOs by immediately to adopt the draft of NGO law. The statement also accused the government that it's an arbitrary action which were done by government authority. 

We believe that the government will explain more about their legal basic of their decision. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Consolidated Report on the Third Draft of the Law on Associations and NGOs in Cambodia

Consolidated Report on the
Third Draft of the
Law on Associations and NGOs in Cambodia

5 August 2011

NGO Law Task Team

1.      SCOPE OF REVIEW

This review covers only the third draft of the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (“NGO Law”) released by the Ministry of the Interior to the public on 29 July 2011, the 1993 Constitution of Cambodia, the Civil Code of Cambodia, and international documents and protocols, such as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The review also refers to the 2007 Civil Code, which will enter into effect later this year and also sets out a detailed registration scheme for non-profit entities and other groups.

The review is based on an analysis of the third draft of the NGO Law by international and domestic NGOs operating in Cambodia, foreign NGOs operating outside the country, and local and international associations, including: Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC), East-West Management Institute, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law and The Asia Foundation.  Discussions and debates were facilitated by the NGO Law Core Group hosted by CCC. 

2.      SUMMARY OF REVIEW

The third draft introduces limited improvements over the second draft of the NGO Law. Despite those limited improvements, however, the fundamental defects of the previous drafts remain unchanged.  Most notably, the draft NGO Law continues to improperly restrict citizens’ freedom of association, a right guaranteed by the Cambodian Constitution. 

The primary defects in the third draft are as follows:

2.1  Involuntary Registration and Re-Registration: The Cambodian Constitution provides the foundation for freedom of association, and expressly grants Cambodians the right to “participate actively in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the nation.”  It is therefore improper for the draft law to require that citizens wishing to associate form a specific type of association, or to require that 11 citizens join together before an association can be formed.  In accordance with the spirit of the Constitution, registration should only be required for domestic NGOs and associations that wish to gain status as a legal person and/or take advantage of the benefits of registration, such as the ability to import materials tax-free.  The law should be expressly voluntary for all other domestic NGOs and associations, particularly small community-based groups where members work together on issues of common concern.  Requiring registration of these small groups will have a severe negative impact on the delivery of development aid to Cambodia.  In addition, the procedure for registration of domestic NGOs and associations should be simplified, and incorporate the Civil Code provisions on registration instead of establishing conflicting procedures.

2.2  Absence of Guidelines for Deciding on Registration: The draft law does not provide sufficient guidance as to the basis on which an association or NGO may be denied registration or a memorandum of understanding.  A clear, limited list of objective grounds for denial should be provided, as well as a transparent process by which the relevant ministries will decide on applications.  In addition, although foreign NGOs denied the right to implement projects are entitled to a written explanation of the reasons for denial, the law does not provide domestic NGOs or associations with a similar right.  Conversely, domestic NGOs and associations denied registration are entitled to appeal that denial in court, but there is no right of appeal provided for foreign NGOs; further, there is no timeline for an appeal by domestic NGOs and associations.  Both domestic and foreign entities should be entitled to a written explanation in the case of denial.  In addition, in the case of denial both domestic and foreign entities should be clearly entitled to an expedited appeal in court, and to remain operational as an unincorporated association or non-governmental organization while the court proceeding takes place.  There should also be a provision for automatic registration if the responsible ministry fails to rule on a registration application within the stipulated 45 working days.

2.3  Inadequate Standards for Suspension and Dissolution: The draft law provides for involuntary suspension or dissolution of an association or NGO, but provides neither the grounds on which such penalties may be imposed nor any guidance as to the circumstances under which the penalties should be ordered.  The draft law also fails to provide any clear right to appeal a decision of suspension or dissolution.  The provisions governing suspension/dissolution should be made clear, objective and consistent with international law, Cambodia’s Civil Code and the new Penal Code.  A right to appeal suspension/dissolution should also be clearly provided.  In addition, as neither the failure to submit a report nor engaging in activities beyond the scope of an organization’s statute qualify as a crime, the suspension of an association or non-governmental organization for these acts is not permitted under the Penal Code.  Finally, the provisions governing suspension fail to provide courts with guidance as to how the assets of the entity should be distributed.  Suspension and dissolution, as well as the distribution of properties, should be made consistent with the organization’s charter, donor requirements and provisions of the Civil Code.  A written warning system for violations should also be incorporated.

2.4  Excessive Reporting and Notification Requirements: The draft law’s reporting and notification requirements are excessive, and particularly burdensome for smaller or new organizations.  The law should incorporate a system of reporting that takes into consideration the size and budget of the organization.  The system could include an exemption for smaller organizations; simplified requirements for mid-sized organizations; and more detailed requirements for those organizations with sizable staff and budgets.

2.5  Barriers to Operation of Foreign NGOs:  The process by which a foreign NGO enters into a memorandum of understanding is heavily bureaucratic and multi-staged, and lacks procedural safeguards.  In addition, the draft law requires mandatory collaboration between foreign NGOs and the Royal Government of Cambodia, limiting the ability of foreign NGOs to act in addressing public benefit goals or community needs.  Finally, as noted above, the law does not provide foreign NGOs with a right to appeal the denial of a request for issuance or renewal of a memorandum of understanding.

2.6  Absence of Glossary and Explanatory Notes: Clarification of various terms in the draft law is needed; the law should incorporate a Glossary of Terms at the end of the law as well as Explanatory Notes for every article.

3.      DISCUSSION

3.1     National Context

The Cambodia Constitution recognizes and respects human rights as stipulated in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the covenants and conventions related to human rights (Article 31).  As noted above, the Constitution also provides the foundation for freedom of association (Article 42), and expressly grants Cambodians the right to “participate actively in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the nation” (Article 35).
3.2     Limited Improvements in Third Draft

The draft law revises certain provisions relating to the registration process for domestic entities.  First, the time period for government review of registration applications by domestic associations and NGOs is reduced from 90 days back to 45 days, as in the initial draft.  Second, the government is required to notify domestic applicants in writing of problems in the application and to provide applicants with the opportunity to modify the application within 45-days.  Third, the government must review any modified domestic application within 15 days.  Fourth, the draft law provides for the right to appeal for domestic applicants.  Fifth, the draft law allows registration of domestic entities at the sub-national level, if the Ministry of Interior delegates its authority.  As noted below, however, the third draft still lacks clear and objective criteria for the denial of registration. 

The draft law also amends certain provisions affecting foreign NGOs.  Foreign NGOs seeking to implement “aid projects” in Cambodia must still enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFA).  However, Article 6 has been revised so that foreign NGOs operating activities for less than one year need not enter into a memorandum, but may instead notify the MoFA about their “aid projects,” duration of activities, and location.  In addition, Article 33 has been revised to require the MoFA to provide a written explanation if it decides not to support the aid projects of a foreign NGO, though both objective criteria to guide the government’s determination and the right to appeal MoFA’s decision in court are noticeably absent.
3.3     Recommendations

Civil Society actors in Cambodia understand the government’s need for a legal framework to ensure the stability and security of the country, as well as to ensure that development and humanitarian aid is delivered effectively.  However, this legal framework already exists under the Civil Code, Penal Code and other Cambodian laws and regulations.  Further, any such framework needs to ensure the freedom of citizens to engage in law-abiding activities without undue restrictions or burdens.  

Recommendation 1:
That registration only be required of those domestic NGOs and associations that wish to take advantage of the benefits of registration, not mandatory for all.

Recommendation 2:
That the registration of NGOs and associations be truly accessible, with clear, speedy, apolitical, and corruption-free procedures in place.

Recommendation 3:
That the law explicitly articulate a transparent process for the evaluation of registration applications, and that the denial of registration be in writing and occur within a reasonable timeline. The appeal process should be explicit, including both an expedited process that permits operations during the appeal and objective legal standards for review.

Recommendation 4:
That Articles 44, 46 and 48 exclude or simplify reporting procedures for small, provincial, community-based development organizations and alliances.

Recommendation 5:
That foreign NGOs be encouraged but not mandated to collaborate with the Royal Government of Cambodia, and be explicitly given the right to appeal the denial of a memorandum of understanding.

Recommendation 6:
That the law incorporates a Glossary of Terms, as well as Explanatory Notes for every article.
3.4     Conclusion

As written, the draft NGO Law will have a severe, negative impact on domestic NGOs and associations and foreign NGOs, and will hinder the delivery of development aid to Cambodia.  Valuable public services will be curtailed, development at the community level will be stunted, and poverty and corruption will increase.    

Moreover, the draft NGO Law will impact the government’s own programs.  The ambiguity of terms as well as complex registration and reporting requirements will create a burden for the government agencies responsible for administering the new regulations, especially the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

It would be to the advantage of the government, and the Cambodian citizens in need of aid, to make registration optional for domestic NGOs and associations, to simplify and clarify processes, and to define terms.




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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

NGO and Associations Joint Statement on the Third draft of the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations


NGO and Associations Joint Statement on the
Third draft of the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations


We, civil society organizations including Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations, highly appreciate that state-civil society cooperation has been a key factor in the development of Cambodia from a war-torn country to a peaceful vibrant developing country. Many times government and civil society organizations have had different opinions but met in constructive discussions, and more frequently still, government and civil society organizations have met in good cooperation.

The proposed NGO legislation indicates a departure from this successful path. Civil society organizations, including associations and NGOs, are very concerned that the law in its third draft gives far-reaching power to the authorities to control the rights of citizens to organize and express themselves. These rights are set out in the Cambodia Constitution (article 31, 35, 42) and international treaties that Cambodia has signed, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 2(1)) and the International Convention on Citizens and Political Rights (ICCPR) (article 14, 22).

Civil Society in Cambodia is diverse; there are different types of organizations, associations, groups, interests and positions. This diversity is our strength, and demonstrates the important range of perspectives the sector contributes to Cambodia’s development. We have now collectively drawn together voices from this broad base into all our discussions on the NGO Law, and there have been many responses. Some organizations decided they would make a strong case that there was no need for the law, some organizations decided to engage with the government consultation in an attempt to improve the law, some organizations chose to lobby on behalf of their specific issues within the law. All these organizations have kept a dialogue throughout, respecting each other’s perspectives – this is what democracy is about.

Today we all stand together: whatever our separate approaches in addressing our concerns about the proposed law, our opinion is united - the draft law we now see before us is unacceptable and we cannot support it in its current form.

We understand that a sovereign state such as Cambodia has the right to promulgate laws, regulations and practices in accordance with international democratic principles. However, the process of enacting laws must respect those democratic principles. Moreover the Law itself must not infringe upon the fundamental rights of the people, including their rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression. The social and economic development of Cambodia in recent years would never have happened if the opportunities to freely organize and express opinions had been curtailed. Successful development of societies worldwide goes hand-in-hand with increased openness.


In our view, thethirddraft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations has not changed significantly from the second draft.   Hence it fails to respect the fundamental rights as outlined above.

We would like to point out four main areas of concern in the current third draft Law: 
1.     The third draft of law does not incorporate the written comments which we submitted to H.E. Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Interior on January 12, 2011.In the attached consolidated recommendations, the registration of an association and NGOs should be voluntary.
2.     The law does not include a time period for an appeals process for the denial of registration
3.     Registration is mandatory and complex, rather than voluntary and simple.
4.     Key terms in the law are left undefined, and many sections are vague

Article 6 on Prohibiting Provisions of the third draft law remains effectively unchanged. A clause has been added which states that associations or NGOs not registered will not enjoy any benefit from the law. However this is effectively undermined by the second part of the clause which states that such organizations may not operate in the name of an association or NGO.  Registration is thus mandatory and unregistered groups are banned. The draft law’s mandatory registration requirements constitute restrictions on the freedom of association which violate the principles Cambodia has promised to adhere to under Article 22 of the ICCPR. Under Article 22, as well as other major international conventions, “freedom of association is a right, and not something that must first be granted by the government to citizens.”

Although we recognize the inclusion of the right to appeal in Article 17, this appeal process remains undefined.  Both domestic and foreign entities should be provided with a written explanation in case of denial, and both should be entitled to appeal that denial in court on an expedited basis and remain functional while court proceeding takes place.

Articles 17 and 32, which deal with applications for registration and requests for memoranda of understanding, lack important safeguards such as objective standards for review. These articles undermine Article 65 of Civil Code.

During the consultation process, civil society organizations have clearly pointed out these weaknesses but to no avail. We are deeply disappointed that the third draft fails to address these main areas of concern.

We, the undersigned NGOs and Associations therefore collectively and respectfully call on the Royal Government of Cambodia to reconsider our key asks and incorporate them in the next draft of the Law. We also ask that the final draft be shared publicly before it is approved by the Council of Ministers or by the National Assembly.

NGOs and Associations stand ready to use our democratic rights to express our discontent through democratic and peaceful means. 

Some NGOs provided their comment regarding the third draft of NGOs Law. Please click here to see those comments: CCHR, LICADHO and ICNL (we post ready), Anonymous organization 

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Civil Society’s Recommendations to the ASEAN Secretary General on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in ASEAN

Civil Society’s Recommendations to the ASEAN Secretary General
on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in ASEAN[1][1]
Submitted in Jakarta, Indonesia on 12 July 2011

1.    We, civil society organizations from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao P.D.R., Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, have gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia for the Second Informal High Level Meeting between the ASEAN Secretary General and Representatives of Civil Society in ASEAN, organized by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) on 11-12 July 2011, to provide feedback and recommendations to the ASEAN Secretary General on how he can help in the promotion and protection of human rights in ASEAN.

2.    We appreciate the commitment displayed by the ASEAN Secretary General to continue the process of dialogue with him. We are confident that the ASEAN Secretary General and civil society have a shared common understanding on the importance of the democratic and constructive dialogue and consultation with stakeholders, including civil society.

3.    We reiterate our recognition of the role of the ASEAN Secretary General as an important channel for civil society to hold ASEAN Member States accountable to their international and regional obligations to promote, protect and fulfill human rights as enshrined in the ASEAN Charter.

4.    We welcome the move of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights to start the drafting process for an ASEAN Human Rights Declaration that is expected to be adopted during the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in July 2012.

5.    We see the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration as a landmark document that will define the human rights architecture in the region. We are prepared to contribute and engage with ASEAN to realize such document that will “uphold international human rights standards as prescribed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and international human rights instruments to which ASEAN Member States are parties” consistent with the Terms of Reference of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.

6.    Despite one of the principles of ASEAN being “[t]o promote a people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building,” we are concerned that there has been no institutionalized access for civil society to engage ASEAN at all levels. The limited access allowed by the different organs of ASEAN has been very much dependent on the chairmanship of such. Thus, civil society is not able to effectively participate in ASEAN community-building.

7.    We recognize that ASEAN is currently pursuing its goal of building an ASEAN Community by 2015. We are, however, alarmed that human rights is not mainstreamed in the Three ASEAN Community Blueprints. Worse, there has been no synergy displayed among the three ASEAN Community Pillars that further negatively impact on the rights of the ASEAN peoples.

8.    We renew our commitment to engage the official processes of ASEAN at all levels to be able to participate, contribute and ultimately benefit from the ASEAN Community envisioned for the peoples of ASEAN.

9.    We reiterate the call of many civil society organizations and groups for the need to have a platform to generate new ideas and further enhance existing mechanisms in ASEAN that deal with human rights. We have lots of ideas that can be considered by ASEAN to further develop its emerging human rights architecture.

10. At the same time, the following are the pressing unaddressed human rights issues in ASEAN:
·         migrant workers
·         refugees
·         asylum seekers
·         border disputes
·         trafficking
·         climate change and environment
·         political participation
·         discriminatory laws and practices (e.g., women and LGBTs, PWDs, IPs)
·         economic rights (e.g., land rights)
·         impunity.

Recommendations

11. We ask the ASEAN Secretary General to formally share his actions on our previous inputs submitted to him last 26 August 2009 on the occasion of the Regional Workshop on ASEAN Forum on Human Rights.

12. We request the ASEAN Secretary General to bring to the attention of the AICHR and ACWC the review of the three ASEAN Community Blueprints to develop coherence and cohesion of the ASEAN Community building process.

13. We urge the ASEAN Secretary General to encourage the development of protection mechanisms of human rights in ASEAN, in view of access to justice, particularly with the AICHR and ACWC.

14. We support the goal of ASEAN in mainstreaming human rights in all of its activities and work, it becoming a shared value. Such mainstreaming of human rights can start by partnering with civil society to gather ideas on how this goal can be realized, still as part of the ASEAN Community Building process. We therefore call on the ASEAN Secretary General to introduce and further strengthen this envisioned partnership in the ASEAN Secretariat and with all organs of ASEAN by taking concrete steps for its realization.

15. We reiterate the need for human rights to be immediately mainstreamed within the ASEAN Secretariat and its operations. This is in recognition of the important and critical role of the ASEAN Secretariat in servicing ASEAN and its Member States and by being their repository and resource center of all ASEAN-related documents and materials.

16. We call on the ASEAN Secretary General to encourage the different organs of ASEAN, more particularly the ASEAN Summit, the various ASEAN Ministerial Meetings, ASEAN Senior Officials Meetings, the Committee of Permanent Representatives, and all other relevant human rights bodies, to institutionalize a platform of dialogue with broader civil society. As such, we reiterate our previous call that any kind of accreditation in ASEAN should not be used to qualify who can participate and who cannot. The ASEAN accreditation guidelines must be simplified and open to all sectors of civil society and organizations in the region.

17. We request the ASEAN Secretary General to identify units in ASEAN that will receive all communications and submissions by ASEAN civil society. Such units should be responsible in disseminating the civil society inputs to the relevant offices within the Secretariat and ASEAN.

18. We encourage the ASEAN Secretary General to ensure the access to information of civil society to all documents, materials and information within the ASEAN Secretariat, by identifying units within the ASEAN Secretariat.

19. We call on the ASEAN Secretary General to direct the relevant offices in the ASEAN Secretariat to regularly update civil society and the public of developments, such as in the ASEAN website.

20. We acknowledge that all ASEAN Member States have ratified CRC and CEDAW. We urge the ASEAN Secretary General to develop a dedicated unit within the ASEAN Secretariat to support the secretariat needs of the ACWC, particularly by providing needed data on women and children’s issues.

21. We recommend to the ASEAN Secretary General to facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogues to address the above-mentioned regional human rights issues.


Jakarta, Indonesia, 12 July 2011

[1][1] Submitted on the occasion of the Second Informal High Level Meeting between the ASEAN Secretary General and Representatives of Civil Society in ASEAN, 11-12 July 2011, Jakarta, Indonesia.


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