The Ministry of Interior suspended the operations of a wildlife conservation NGO, citing the Law on Associations and NGOs, for allegedly not providing required annual reports and other documentation.
On April 21, Interior Minister Sar Kheng issued a letter to Chheav Ann Salideth, head of the Cambodia Wild Life Forest Fisheries Protection and Conservation NGO, suspending the organization’s activities temporarily, citing Article 8 of the group’s bylaws and Articles 10 and 25 of LANGO.
“The organization must provide in writing all information, accounts and addresses of the headquarters,” the letter reads. “And provide the consolidated report of the results of the work and the financial reports for 2017, 2018 and 2019 to the Ministry of Interior within 30 workdays.”
While VOA Khmer could not access the NGO’s bylaws, but Article 10 of LANGO requires an organization to provide a list of all its operating bank accounts within 30 days of registration and Article 25 requires annual activity and financial reports.
Chheav Ann Salideth could not be reached for comment. An NGO staffer, Prom Phearun declined to comment on the letter, saying the organization’s leadership had only seen the allegations in the press and not received the letter.
He said the NGO was preparing documents to reply to the ministry, adding that the NGO, established in 2010, was based in Phnom Penh and with 10 provincial offices and had conducted activities in collaboration with the government.
“The organization is active with the government in planting trees, as well as assisting in all kinds of activities, such as the transportation of wildlife and many humanitarian activities,” he said.
According to local media reports, an NGO staffer was arrested by Kampong Thom authorities on the charges of extortion in 2012. In February 2020, 10 staffers of the NGO were again arrested, according to local media reports, for allegedly using cars with RCAF plates and using the NGO to extort people in Preah Sihanouk province.
Prom Phearun said the last accusation was allegedly done by a person pretending to be part of the NGO, not giving any additional details of the arrest.
Soeung Sen Karuna, senior investigator at rights group ADHOC, said the Ministry of Interior should be clear about why it has raised these issues now, because arbitrary implementation of the law would cause worry among civil society groups.
“If it is not made clear, if there is any ambiguity and some actions have been taken, it is possible for other organizations to worry,” he said.
There are around 5,000 registered NGOs and associations in the country according to Interior Ministry statistics.