During a meeting on the revision of the Law on Non-Governmental Organisations yesterday, the Interior Ministry said it will address concerns raised by civil society groups, but it remains unclear how many articles will be revised.
The law was passed in 2015 and since then NGOs have criticised it for requiring civil society groups to register with the Interior Ministry to be lawful and report their activities and finances or face fines, criminal prosecution and closure.
Soeng Sen Karuna, spokesman for the rights group Adhoc, said fieldwork within local communities gets hampered by uncooperative local officials who accuse them of breaking the law during gatherings.
“We work with communities directly and their members have committed to doing activities, but local authorities accused them of breaking the law,” Mr Sen Karuna said, noting that Interior Ministry must vouch for NGOs in local communities.
Ministry secretary of state Bun Honn, who led the meeting, replied by saying villagers working with the NGOs are not required to register with the Interior Ministry, but some local authorities are not familiar with the law.
“We will consider the NGO’s suggestion,” Mr Honn said. “We need time to promote and train local authorities and communities on this law.”
NGOs yesterday highlighted 17 articles to be amended. These articles pertain to registration, facilitation of fieldwork and the removal of restrictions on human rights work. They noted NGOs must be able to work without feeling threatened.
“To amend Lango, the government invites representatives of civil society organisations and relevant institutions to attend the meeting today to discuss issues for the government to consider,” Mr Honn said.
Mr Honn said the Interior Ministry wants NGO representatives to speak up during meetings and identify problematic articles.
He said a team will identify specific goals to facilitate discussions and accelerate any proposed amendments.
Mr Honn noted any articles proposed to be revised by NGOs so far focus on general provisions, reports and neutrality of political parties.
“The Royal Government has always welcomed the amendment requests of NGOs who are registered with the Interior Ministry,” he said.
Yong Kim Eng, president of the People Centre for Development and Peace, yesterday after the meeting said Interior Ministry and NGO officials discussed five articles, but three more problematic articles are to be discussed next time.
“The meeting has not yet yielded results – officials just discussed some articles,” Mr Kim Eng said. “Lango mentions service fees and NGOs do not have money to pay for them. Many layers of bureaucracy make it difficult for NGOs to work with communities.”