Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn has urged foreign non-governmental organisations to comply with the Law on NGOs and avoid activities which could be linked to money laundering and terrorism financing.
Mr Sokhonn and about 300 officials from ministries, stakeholders and members of foreign NGOs attended the first consultative meeting yesterday at the ministry in Phnom Penh.
The meeting was held after the Interior Ministry last year announced to meet the representatives of local civil society organisations biannually to listen their concerns and solve issues.
In the opening session, Mr Sokhonn said that all NGOs should comply with the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations.
“Please avoid at all cost, activities which could be associated or linked to money laundering, financing of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, as stipulated by the [inter-governmental organisation] Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, so that you could avoid falling into their grey list, which will cause negative effects on the financial system, flows of investment and political sentiment in Cambodia,” he said.
Mr Sokhonn said that the meeting was an opportunity to determine challenges and identify appropriate solutions in a bid to strengthen law enforcement and regulation.
Mr Sokhonn took the opportunity to address the Law on NGOs and said it was enacted in 2015 to protect the freedom and rights in forming associations and NGOs in the Kingdom.
“This Law was not enacted to restrict NGOs, but this law requires that all NGOs operate with transparency, and responsibility under the Law,” he said.
“The Law aims to defend the legal rights and interests of our people, and to enhance partnership and cooperation between associations and NGOs with public authorities, so that we could together develop our society and bring about progress in all fields,” he said.
Mr Sokhonn also thanked all foreign NGOs for their support to the process of building and developing Cambodia.
“The Royal Government is committed to continuing our relationship and readily welcomes any partnership with foreign NGOs who operate with goodwill and principles of upholding the best interest of our people,” he said.
He said that as of December 2018, there were 386 foreign NGOs with valid MoUs working on the sectors of education, health, social affairs, agriculture, vocational training, community development, the environment and demining
Roberto Panetto, representative of Don Bosco Foundation of Cambodia, an NGO working with education and protection of children and youth from vulnerable and poor communities, was supportive of the meeting.
“I am happy that the government gives chance to international organizations to participate and give their advice,” he said.
Mr Roberto expressed his concern about reduced funds in supporting his NGO’s daily operation due to global economic crisis and urged the government to help support the project.
Edith Van Wijngaarden, country director for Humanity and Inclusion, said that the meeting was crucial as the government could clarify unclear issues with NGOs.
“I think it’s very positive to have the first consultative meeting because sometimes we all have MoUs with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but sometimes things are not clear for us and maybe sometimes, things are not clear for Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so it is good to initiate regular communications,” Ms Van Wijngaarden said.