AFP Sunday, 26 July 2015 1269 views

Anti-LANGO Protesters Detained, Released

(AFP) – Authorities briefly detained six demonstrators yesterday afternoon as they protested against the recent passage of a controversial law regulating associations and non-governmental organisations, officials and a rights group said.

The five men and a woman were among dozens who rallied outside the National Assembly.

Critics of the controverisal legislation say it will hinder the ability of NGOs to operate effectively and freely in the country by creating restrictions on registration and monitoring of their activities.

Those who were detained had dressed themselves in prison uniforms and chained their feet together. Riot police were seen chasing other demonstrators away from the parliament building.

“The six people were arrested during a rally to express their opinion against the law,” Am Sam Ath, coordinator of rights group Licadho, said.

They were detained at Chamkor Mon District police office and later released without charge after promising “not to do anything illegal and to be good citizens,”he added.

Long Dimanche, a spokesman for Phnom Penh City Hall, confirmed the arrests and said police detained the group because “their activities are inappropriate and are not allowed by the law”. He told Xinhua: “Their action was inappropriate, so our authorities detained them for education and made them sign a contract promising not to do such action again, then we freed them at 5:00 p.m. Cambodia is home to some 5,000 NGOs, many of whom provide key services, particularly for the poor majority.

Rights groups, Western diplomats and the UN have criticized the new legislation which has been pushed through by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his party.

Under the new law, which passed the National Assembly earlier this month and the Senate last week, all domestic and international NGOs must report their activities and finances to the government. 

Failure to comply will result in fines, legal action, bans and “other criminal punishment”. 

NGOs can also be disbanded if their activities “jeopardize peace, stability and public order or harm the national security, national unity, culture, and traditions of Cambodian society”.

The law was passed in both legislative houses despite a boycott by the main opposition party and a string of vocal protests.  

It still needs to be signed off by the monarch – a step that is all but a formality.

Hun Sen, one of the world’s longest-ruling leaders, marked three decades in power in January. He is regularly criticized by campaigners for stamping out dissent.

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