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NGO alliance reports freedom to work

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Civil Society Alliance Forum members gather for a meeting yesterday. KT/Siv Channa

The Civil Society Alliance Forum yesterday reported to the Council of Ministers that local authorities have not restricted any of their members’ activities this year.

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The alliance was established by the government in June 2016. It consists of Council of Ministers members, ministerial staffers and a handful of NGO personnel. Its aim is to support development in accordance with the national development policy.

It attended a meeting yesterday at the Council of Ministers’ office in Phnom Penh to brief council members on results of cooperation with local authorities.

Kem Roat Viseth, chairman of the board of CSAF, said in a statement yesterday that members of the organisation have been conducting activities in the capital and provinces across the Kingdom over the past few years.

Mr Roat Viseth, who is also a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, said local authorities have been helpful in providing a good working environment.

“These are positive and pleasant outcomes,” he said. “I think this is what the government desired. A better working environment between civil society and the government.”

“This clearly proves that civil society organisations have been allowed to conduct their activities with no repression from anyone,” Mr Roat Viseth said, noting that 129 civil society groups, associations and unions have registered to become CSFA members and 56 other NGOs are applying.

He said that CSFA aims to facilitate new policy recommendations, brainstorm new ideas based on scientific research and strengthen the rule of law and democratic freedoms within the legal frameworks.

Despite the positive report by CSAF, other civil society organisations are reporting the opposite.

Soeng Sen Karuna, spokesman for the rights group Adhoc, yesterday said some local authorities restrict access to information for groups monitoring issues related to human rights.

Mr Sen Karuna said local authorities will only cooperate with civil society groups dealing with social issues.

“It remains a major problem for our organisation because officials follow us closely in order to monitor our activities on the ground,” he said. “Although we have informed local authorities about our activities, police still questioned us and the people who attended our workshops.”

General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, yesterday said the government has been working well alongside civil society groups.

“If the government restricted them, how can they carry out their activities? We have done a lot of work to promote cooperation. They should admit this,” Gen Sopheak said.

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