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Land rights NGO given green light to resume its operations

Mom Sophon / Khmer Times Share:
EU ambassador George Edgar and Interior Minister Sar Kheng at a meeting. Supplied

The Interior Ministry has decided to allow land rights NGO Equitable Cambodia to operate in Cambodia after suspending its activities in September.

The announcement was made after a meeting between Interior Minister Sar Kheng and EU ambassador George Edgar on Friday.

According to the National Police, both parties discussed land disputes with the Phnom Penh Sugar Company in Kampong Speu province as well as the NGO’s suspension, which came about after it allegedly incited villagers to protest and failed to file financial reports and activity agendas.

Heang Sokun, former community organising program manager of Equitable Cambodia, said yesterday the management team would hold a meeting in the future to discuss the possibility of reopening after receiving notice that the ministry would allow the organisation to resume its activities.

No decision has been made because some of the management team was still on vacation, he added.

“We are thinking of how we can restart the organisation with what we are doing today in line with the ministry’s permission. We have not yet discussed how to reopen the program,” Mr Sokun said.

He said about 40 Equitable Cambodia staff were still unemployed because they were awaiting permission from authorities to resume operations.

Equitable Cambodia was temporarily suspended in late September by the Interior Ministry, which said the organisation had acted in contravention of the law.

The ministry wanted the executive director of Equitable Cambodia to reveal bank account statements, its activity and other financial reports.

The suspension also took place after the ministry received a complaint from citizens living in Kampong Speu province’s Aural district on August 30.

The people that filed the complaint also went to protest at Equitable Cambodia headquarters in Phnom Penh, accusing the organisation of inciting the community into land disputes with tycoon Ly Yong Phat.

San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said he was not surprised by the ministry’s decision, adding he thought Equitable Cambodia performed its mission legally.

“I think the reason why the organisation was suspended in the past was not sufficient because it was just based on a complaint from a group of people,” he said.

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