Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng yesterday appealed to all local authorities to cooperate with civil society groups and not to threaten them if they are carrying out legal activities.
He was speaking at a consultative forum, attended by nearly 1,000 NGOs, on Koh Pich to discuss resolving issues and promoting cooperation between the government and civil society groups.
Mr Sreng appealed to the Armed Forces, City Hall, local authorities and other relevant parties to coordinate and facilitate the work of registered NGOs and not threaten or intimidate them.
“The government does not discriminate against any activities of legally-registered NGOs as has been claimed,” he said. “The government does not suppress their freedom to conduct political or any other activity.”
Mr Sreng suggested that representatives of development partners, communities, and NGOs should continue to support and engage with local authorities at all levels to promote democracy, provide social services and develop social and economic development in a more integrated partnership with high responsibility.
He noted that there are now 5,523 local NGOs registered with the Interior Ministry, and 419 foreign NGOs associations which have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Foreign Affairs Ministry to conduct activities in accordance with applicable laws, without any hindrance or barriers.
Chhem Roath, an officer of Legal Aid of Cambodia, yesterday said that NGOs must respect the law when carrying out activities and avoid affecting pubic order.
“The NGOs have an obligation to follow the laws and avoid any activity which affects public order,” he said.
Soeng Sen Karuna, a senior official of rights group Adhoc, recently said that he welcomes the consultative forum as an opportunity for civil society group to raise issues concerning the public.
“It is good thing and we always meet to discuss issues with the authorities,” he said. “It is a chance for NGOs to raise issues such as human rights violation and the Law on NGOs which restricts freedom of assembly.”
“The government has opened space for civil society groups to do their work but implementation is still a problem because local authorities are not fully cooperating with NGOs and disrupt our work by monitoring us when we hold meetings with villagers,” Mr Sen Karuna added.
In November, the government established a working group to address issues raised by NGOs regarding difficulties conducting field work. The working group is tasked with organizing consultation meetings with NGOs and reviewing issues.
The working group also has to collect information and studies made by NGOs and promote awareness of the law on associations and NGOs and other legal instruments.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng also ordered local authorities to allow registered NGOs to conduct their field work without the need of a three-day prior notice as stipulated in a previous policy. He said that the move was meant to strengthen cooperation between NGOs and the government, noting that the policy only applies to NGOs which are registered with the ministry.