PHNOM PENH —
A group of opposition lawmakers has urged the Constitutional Council to amend a contentious law on regulating NGOs in the country.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers delivered a petition to the Council Thursday, suggesting the law as written is unconstitutional, particularly in curbing the right to association. The law creates red tape for NGOs and other associations that critics say can be used to control their activities.
Rescue Party parliamentarian Son Chhay told reporters Thursday he hoped the Council would consider the request, despite criticism it is biased toward the ruling party.
“I am still hopeful that the Constitutional Council will rely on its wisdom and principles,” he said. “These serious restrictions will create difficulties for the Cambodian people in implementing rights guaranteed by the constitution.”
The petition, signed by 13 Rescue Party lawmakers, says the law could prevent people from forming associations, particularly in the provinces, because it requires them to travel to Phnom Penh to register.
Local rights groups Adhoc and Licadho meanwhile issued a statement urging the Constitutional Council to reject the law, calling it “unnecessary,” considering laws already on the books to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. These laws “already provided an extensive framework for the regulation of non-governmental organizations, associations, and other citizen groups,” the statement says.
Ny Chakriya, Adhoc’s head of legal assistance, said the Council should consider some of the most sensitive articles and decide on a law that will affect the entire country. “This affects the reputation of the government and our country as a whole,” he said.
Prum Nhean Vicheth, a spokesman for the Constitutional Council, confirmed receipt of the petition and said the Council will be considering the draft law soon.