The Interior Ministry is due to hold a meeting with representatives of local and foreign NGOs next week in a bid to review and give feedback over draft amendments to the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations.
The ministry issued a statement yesterday saying that the meeting will be held on Tuesday between representatives of local and international NGOs and the government’s working group to work out requests for amendments made by the NGOs.
It said the contentious contents in Lango will be raised and discussed in detail.
Lango was passed in 2015 by CPP lawmakers amid a parliamentary boycott by opposition CNRP lawmakers.
The law requires more than 5,000 local and international NGOs working in the Kingdom to register with the government and report their activities and finances or risk fines, criminal prosecution or shutdowns.
Korn Savang, coordinator for election monitor Comfrel, yesterday said that his organisation will attend the second meeting on Tuesday and noted that it will raise its concern regarding the law.
He said the NGOs want the government to have 12 of the 39 articles amended and deleted.
“We are not arguing over all articles in the law. We contest only some articles we consider as restrictive to our activities,” Mr Savang said. “We want them to remove articles 24 and 25 of this law.”
Article 24 states that local or foreign NGOs or foreign associations shall maintain their neutrality to all political parties in the Kingdom while article 25 stipulates that local NGOs shall submit copies of their annual activity and finance reports to the Ministry of Interior by no later than the end of February of the following year.
Mr Savang said that article 24 is being applied to restrict activities by NGOs working with political parties, especially the opposition party.
“Previously, authorities have used the word ‘neutrality’ as excuses to accuse some NGOs of attempting to be involved in colour revolution or of supporting [former CNRP],” he said. “We are partners with the government, so we should not be fully controlled by the government.”
Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak yesterday denied that the government restricted NGOs’ activities.
“Due to their criticism, now we decided to sit down and discuss it together,” Gen Sopheak said. “What do you want and what can we fix? They have accused the government of restricting and monitoring their activities.”
Gen Sopheak said that Lango aims to protect the interest of the country and people.
He said that the NGOs should not serve the interest of political parties.
“They claimed that authorities restricted their activity, like when they gathered people. Then, our police officers deployed to monitor them,” he said.
“Like one NGO in Oddar Meanchey province, it conducted an advocacy training programme and it invited only opposition members to join,” Gen Sopheak added. “When our police come to inspect them, they accused us of intimidating them. If they had good intention, why didn’t they invite members from other parties?”