Phnom Penh Thursday, 27 January 2011
Photo: VOA Khmer
Many NGOs say they are worried the law needs corrections lest it be used to crackdown on organizations deemed anti-government.
“If the current draft law is not changed, it’s worrisome to NGOs.”
The Ministry of Interior has accepted most of the recommendations from the non-governmental sector as it moves forward with a draft law on governing NGOs, although some concerning provisions remain, officials said Thursday.
Organizations had said they worried the new law, which seeks tighter regulations of the sector, would inhibit the growth and develop of the country by making it difficult for NGOs to both form and operate.
In a meeting between the government and NGO sectors earlier this month, organizations said they wanted to see changes to 21 articles of the law to prevent bureaucratic logjams that could diminish their effectiveness. Many of their recommendations were accepted, officials said.
“The Ministry of Interior agreed to exclude community-based organizations or associations in rural areas in the draft law,” said Sin Somony, executive director of Medicam, an umbrella group of medical NGOs.
Small, rural groups would have had a hard time forming under the previous version of the law, a potential danger to grassroots organizations in many communities.
The ministry agreed to lower the number of national founders to any group, from 21 to 11, Sin Somony said. The ministry also agreed to strike a provision in the law that called for reporting of changes or dismissals of any staff members, though changes in organizational leadership will still be required.
For all the positive changes, areas of concern remain, he said.
For example, the law still prohibits an alliance between Cambodian and international NGOs, which will be detrimental to the capacity development of local organizations, he said.
Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum, a large association of organizations, said the law must provide for such alliances.
“If the current draft law is not changed, it’s worrisome to NGOs,” he said. “So we demand they provide a clear definition of alliances between local and international NGOs to make possible their continuous work to help develop Cambodia.”
The ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs will need further discussion on that question, said Nouth Saan, secretary of state for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, he confirmed that many of the changes had been accepted.
Regardless, Sin Somony said NGOs appreciated a chance to discuss the law with the government before it moves to the Council of Ministers for approval and the National Assembly for passage.
“It is a good step forward, because the government accepted the NGO recommendations and showed good will,” he said. “So we hope the second draft law on non-governmental organizations will reflect what NGO and government representatives talked about.”