Different Opinions about a Draft to Control Civil Society – Friday, 2.10.2009

Posted on 3 October 2009. Filed under: Week 632 |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 632

“The draft of a law by the government to control non-government organizations, where two institutions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior, are studying the draft before it is presented for adoption, led more than 200 national and international organizations to release a statement about it.

“In a statement signed by 216 local and international groups, distributed Tuesday [at an international donors’ meeting], Cambodia’s NGO community asked to get to see a draft of the new law that will soon govern associations and non-government organizations in Cambodia.

“This law was marked as a priority by Prime Minister Hun Sen in a September [2008] speech, but members of civil society told The Cambodia Daily yesterday [1 October 2009] that they haven’t seen a draft of the proposed legislation in the year since. That prompted them to call for more consultation, with concerned organizations issuing their statement during Tuesday’s donors meeting between the government and development partners.

“‘Do you have a draft? I don’t have one,’ said Dr. Sin Somony, the director of the medical NGO umbrella group Medicam, said by telephone on 1 October 2009. ‘That’s why I’m wondering when a draft will be available,’ he said. The public health organization, along with the Cooperation Committee of Cambodia and the NGO Forum on Cambodia, organized a meeting last week with members of civil society groups to discuss the proposed law. They sent invitations to the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the two government bodies involved in drafting the law, but no government representatives attended the meeting.

“The directotr of the NGO Forum, Mr. Chhith Sam Ath, told the same paper that he had not seen a draft of the law, or spoken with government representatives in the past year, a sentiment echoed by Lun Borithy, the executive director of the Cooperation Committee of Cambodia.

“‘We cannot give any input on what is in the law, until we know what is in it,’ Mr. Borithy said yesterday.

“The statement from the 216 NGOs, which was not taken up to be addressed by the donors meeting on Tuesday, also questioned the government’s motivation in creating the law.

“‘We believe that the current registration processes are adequate to ensure proper operations and, more importantly, they are seen as supportive for an ‘enabling’ environment for civil society, to exercise its right to engage in participatory democracy,’ it read.

“‘The legitimacy of civil society to create space for the ‘voice’ of affected communities is being called into question by the government.’

“Members of the government have said that the law will promote transparency in the NGO community and weed out groups that support terrorism. The last draft made available to members of civil society was written in 2005.

“CARE International’s Country Director Sharon Wilkinson told The Cambodia Daily yesterday that she does not necessarily object to the idea of a law governing associations.

“‘Laws are excellent things to govern, if the laws are unambiguous and cannot be used to hamper civil society,’ Ms. Wilkinson said. ‘I cannot comment on whether this law will do this or not, because I have not seen it.’

“She pointed out that, as things stand now, local organizations must register with the Mnistry of Interior, while international NGOs enlist at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and that the CCC administers an NGO good practices registry, which invites associations to voluntarily adhere to a code of ethics.

“‘Nobody is working outside the law,’ Ms. Wilkinson said.

“Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said that the draft is currently being discussed by members of his ministry and the Interior Ministry.

“‘Right now, it’s in process. A technical team is working on it,’ adding that he did not have information about the content of the draft.

“Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that an NGO law will encourage organizations that are politically neutral, and discourage ‘racist’ groups.

“But analysts said that non-government organizations have worked to serve poor citizens and people with poor knowledge by preventing dishonest and rich people from harassing the weak.

“The president of Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers, Mr. Chea Mony, told Khmer Machas Srok via telephone yesterday evening, ‘It is wrong. Generally, civil society organizations are not subordinates of political parties and the government. Therefore, if the government drafts a law to put civil society organizations under its control, it is against the main pact of the International Labor Organization (ILO) which stipulates that there is no interference form the government.’

“He added that if the government intends to control civil society organizations, our country will be later not a democratic country, but a country controlled by the state. And civil society organizations are like trade unions created by the state. If they are state’s unions, there will be no transparency and they must support the government, otherwise they will not receive aid. All in all, a draft law to control civil society organizations is not right.” Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #500, 2.10.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 2 October 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #300, 2.10.2009

  • The Debt of More Than US$300 Million That Cambodia Owes America Can Be Changed into Development Aid [according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, after his visit to America to attend the UN General Assembly]The National Assembly Adopted the Penal Code Draft by 99 of the 101 Votes [The Cambodia Daily , however, reports that it is being discussed – and that amendments proposed by the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians were rejected by a vote of 83 if 101 votes]
  • Hor Namhong Will Meet the New Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan [Mr. Okada] in Siem Reap [at the Mekong Committee meeting from 2 to 3 October 2009]
  • An Australian Professor [from Melbourne University, Mr. Michael Vickery] Criticized Radio Free Asia [for dismissing staff members, saying that the dismissal is against democracy that the United States of America always talks about]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2061, 2.10.2009

  • The Director of the World Health Organization Shows Which Aid Is to Be Donated to Cambodia [the organizations is seeking resources, medicines for Malaria, and A/H1N1 vaccines]
  • Cart Pullers Are Happy when the Authorities Are Friendly [after Prime Minister Hun Sen recently warned to dismiss any official who extorts money from cart pullers – Poipet]
  • Strong Earthquake in Indonesia Killed 464 People and Thousands Others Are Trapped under Rubble
  • China Celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the Creation of the People’s Republic of China with a Show of Force

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #500, 2.10.2009

  • Different Opinions about a Draft to Control Civil Society

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6768, 2.10.2009

  • Cambodia and America Have Better Relations in Recent Years [according the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation]
  • Wood Trafficking Continues with No End as Wood Is as Expensive as Gold

Phnom Penh Post, Vol.1, #17, 2.10.2009

  • Construction Sector Grows by 7% within Eight Months [of 2009, where the government licensed 1,499 construction plans worth US$1.61 billion, while in the same period last year, there were only 1,396 construction plans worth US$1.51 billion]
  • Early 2009 Woman and Child Trafficking Declines [according the Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection of the Ministry of Interior – no figures given]
  • The Prime Minister Rejected the Request [submitted by citizens living around the Boeng Kak lake] to Halt Filling the Boeng Kak Lake with Sand [but the cabinet of the Prime Minister guaranteed to provide just compensation to citizens affected]
  • The MH Bio-Energy Company Agrees to Buy Cassava from Local Companies to Produce Ethanol

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5010, 2.10.2009

  • Thai Prime Minister [Mr. Abhisit Vijjajiva] Rejected to Solve the Border Issues within the ASEAN Framework
  • Chinese National Day: Samdech Euv and Samdech Mae Are the Only Guest of the Chinese Government [according to Agence France-Presse (AFP)]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.17, #1799, 2-4.10.2009

  • A Parliamentarian from the Cambodian People’s Party [Mr. Cheam Yeap] Regrets that the Constitution of Cambodia Does Not State Death Penalty

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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One Response to “Different Opinions about a Draft to Control Civil Society – Friday, 2.10.2009”

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Correction – Apologies:
“Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #300, 2.10.2009:
Hor Namhong Will Meet the New Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan [Mr. Okada] in Siem Reap [at the Mekong Committee meeting from 2 to 3 October 2009] – It is not the “Mekong Committee,” but the “Second Mekong-Japan Foreign Ministerial Meeting.”


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