Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday said the government is open to discussions with rival political parties and non-government organisations in order to improve the country.
During Victory Day celebrations yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said working with rival political parties, and NGOs, can help develop the Kingdom by fostering dialogue between rival factions.
“The government is open to dialogue with other political parties and civil society groups in order to build and develop the country together,” he said. “We are committed to maintaining peace and all of our achievements. We will not allow forces to destroy our peace and achievements.”
After the CPP’s sweeping election victory in July, the government formed the Supreme Consultative Council, which consists of 30 representatives from 15 political parties, in order to gain input from other parties with only the CPP holding seats in the National Assembly.
The council members were chosen by each participating party in order to advise the government at the request of Mr Hun Sen.
Soeng Sen Karuna, a senior investigator with rights group Adhoc, yesterday said he welcomes the move to open dialogue because NGOs play a crucial role in bridging the gap between government and society.
“It is a good thing because NGOs play a role as a bridge connecting the government in order to resolve the problems of the people,” Mr Sen Karuna said. “We have seen civil society groups working on the issues of health, education and development have freedom, but those working on human rights are restricted by local officials.”
“We hope that the government will make local authorities follow them and provide us our rights in carrying out our duties,” he added.
Lao Mong Hay, a political analyst, yesterday said he supports the initiative, but is unsure whether the government will actually do the work.
“One cannot be sure this time that his words will be fully matched by his deeds,” Mr Mong Hay said. “Regarding NGOs, a genuine deed would be an amendment to the NGO law to affirm the right to freedom of association and remove all restrictive provisions on their registration and functioning.”
Former opposition party lawmaker Ou Chanrath yesterday said the government has targeted civil society groups who tend to oppose government policy.
“We have seen some restrictions, especially restrictions on NGOs with the tendency to go against the government,” Mr Chanrath said. “These NGOs usually work on issues regarding human rights.”
The Interior Minister in November told local authorities to allow registered NGOs to conduct their fieldwork without the need of a three-day prior notice as stipulated in a previous policy.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng said the move was meant to strengthen cooperation between NGOs and the government, noting that the policy only applies to NGOs who are registered with the ministry.