Civil society renews calls for input on NGO law

By: Taing Vida

Nearly 300 local and international NGOs yesterday held a press conference to petition the Cambodian government to suspend its adoption of a controversial draft law on NGOs that would curb organisations’ freedom of movement. They said the state should first consult with stakeholders to ensure the law’s effectiveness.

According to a statement by the 272 NGOs, the government initially cooperated with civil society actors on the fourth draft of the law, released in 2011. Since then, however, Prime Minister Hun Sen has delayed the law’s adoption, before announcing last month that it would be passed in early May without the help or feedback of NGOs.

Tek Vannara, the executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, said the request by civil society groups was meant to promote cooperation.

“We request that the government commit to a culture of dialogue, the protection of human rights and democratic and economic development,” he said. However, government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday accused NGOs of serving “foreign” interests, saying they had “no right to force the government to act as they please.