The topic of ensuring political space was mentioned during a farewell visit by outgoing European Union Ambassador George Edgar to Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday.
“He asked the government to ensure better political space in Cambodia,” Interior Ministry spokesman Phat Sophanith said.
Mr Sophanith also said that Mr Edgar told Mr Kheng local authorities are still apprehensive when it comes to working with NGOs.
“In response, Samdech Sar Kheng said the government will continue to work with NGOs, as well as media outlets in the country,” he said.
Mr Sophanith noted that Cambodia is still willing to cooperate with the EU, despite challenges ahead.
“Cambodia will continue to cooperate with the EU even if there are challenges between the two,” he said, adding that Mr Kheng thanked Mr Edgar for the EU’s support in developing the Kingdom. “Samdech Sar Kheng hopes the relationship between Cambodia and the EU will get better.”
He also said that Mr Edgar congratulated the ministry for managing meetings between NGOs and the government.
“George Edgar congratulated the government on the forum that was created in order for civil society to work better with the government,” Mr Sophanith said.
Soeng Sen Karuna, senior investigator with the rights group Adhoc, yesterday said Mr Edgar was right to bring up issues regarding restrictions on civil society and politics.
“We have yet to see the better part of the situation [regarding NGOs],” Mr Sen Karuna said. “We see that NGOs are given the space to work, but political freedom remains restricted.”
Cambodian Centre for Human Rights executive director Chak Sopheap said earlier this month said that freedom of assembly is a right that must not be restricted.
“State authorities must facilitate freedom of assembly and take measures to protect public safety without discrimination,” Ms Sopheap said. “Civil society has a crucial role to play in promoting good governance. It can help Cambodia ensure it complies with its obligations under international human rights laws.”