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Corrupt Officials a Roadblock To Civic Groups, Expert Says

  • Men Kimseng
  • VOA Khmer

Ok Serei Sopheak, a governance specialist, talks on Hello VOA radio call-in show, file photo.

Ok Serei Sopheak, a governance specialist, talks on Hello VOA radio call-in show, file photo.

Civil society groups have contributed significantly to the development of Cambodia over the past 20 years, working as a government partner, but sometimes they face challenges in the areas of good governance and legal education, an expert says.

Ok Serei Sopheak, a governance specialist, told “Hello VOA” on Monday the problems are caused by officials involved in bad governance, who don’t want to be exposed and therefore refuse to cooperate.

“This is not a policy from the central government,” he said. “Otherwise those civil society organizations would not be able to conduct their activities. There are some individuals involved in bad governance who are not happy with the work of the civil society.”

Non-governmental organizations working in the areas of physical development and peace building tend to receive more cooperation from local authorities, Ok Serei Sopheak said.

Meanwhile, a number of civil society groups have built networks to help them transform into political parties.

There is nothing wrong with that, Ok Serei Sopheak said. But his concern is that this can give the government a strong argument to inhibit the work of other groups and to pass stricter laws on their control.

“I think that this is what we have to be careful of,” he said. “If we cannot distinguish between a political party and civil society group that really serves the interest of the people, we can get ourselves into a situation where there is a call for the introduction of a law distinguishing between civil society group and political activity. This is my concern.”

A draft law on the management of nongovernmental organizations was introduced, but later postponed indefinitely, due to strong reaction from local and international communities.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said there are civil society groups that work as real partners with the government and those who “work to serve the interest of foreign organizations” and act against the government.

“No matter what, we still hope that activities of those nongovernmental organizations contribute to the government’s efforts to tackle all challenges, either in harmony or controversy,” he said.

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