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NGO Law To Aid Counterterrorism: Official

A proposed law to govern the activities and monitor funding of Cambodia’s hundreds of non-governmental organizations will also help in the fight against global terrorism, a senior official said Monday.

The proposed “Law on Organizations,” sometimes mistranslated as the “Organic Law,” has been criticized by rights groups and other organizations as an attempt by the government to control them.

But the law will also prevent funding from Islamic extremism to Cambodia’s Muslim communities, said Sak Setha, secretary of state for the Ministry of Interior, which drafted the law.

“We focus on international terrorist organizations, not assistance from countries,” he said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.” “I believe that assistance from any country, if it’s proper by this law, will not be impacted.”

Sak Setha pointed to Muslim organization Um Alkura, which was linked to the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah and closed by the government in 2006, as evidence that extremist funding was finding its way to Cambodia.

Many of Cambodia’s Muslim communities receive funding from Muslim patrons from the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Tieng Saphorn, a project manager for the NGO Star Kampuchea, welcomed the law.

“NGOs are partners of the government, and we have never committed any wrongdoing,” he said, also as “Hello VOA” guest.

“The law is in the interest of NGOs,” Sak Setha said, dismissing concerns from groups that the law would adversely affect them.

When the new law is passed, many of the country’s more than 2,000 NGOs will have to reapply and fill out additional documentation, he said.