The Interior Ministry is due to hold a forum today between government officials and NGOs to raise and iron out any problems leading up to the upcoming election in July.
Chhan Chansopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Administration, said yesterday that the forum will be presided over by Interior Minister Sar Kheng.
“About 200 organisations and NGOs will join the forum with relevant ministries and development partners,” Mr Chansopheak said. “The forum is for the government and civil society organizations to learn about the challenges and difficulties they face. We want to talk about cooperation between the authorities and civil society organisations.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said yesterday that he knew little about the forum and referred questions to Prak Sam Oeun, director-general of the Ministry’s General Department of Administration who could not be reached for comment.
A letter signed last month by Mr Kheng said that after the Law on Associations and Non-Government Organisations came into effect in 2015, more than 5,300 associations and NGOs have registered with the Ministry of Interior.
“To promote good cooperation between the government and civil society, especially to jointly solve challenges and manage the political environment before the national election on July 29, 2018, the Ministry of Interior would like to ask the Prime Minister to hold a forum on the partnership between the government and civil society organisations,” the letter said.
Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of election watchdog Nicfec, said that he was unaware of the forum and noted that if the forum was held, misunderstanding will be reduced.
“I think that if the Interior Ministry holds this forum, it can cut down the gap between the government and civil society,” Mr Kuntheamy said.
Soeng Sen Karuna, senior investigator for human rights group Adhoc, said that he was not invited to the forum.
Mr Sen Karuna said that human rights workers usually faced problems when they met with people who were embroiled in land disputes because they received little cooperation from local authorities. “Giving an opportunity to civil society organisations to raise the problems we face will be a good thing,” he said.