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Constitutional Council Accepts Contentious NGO Law

A pro-democracy activist at the anti-NGO draft law campaign in front of National Assembly on June 30, 2015. (Hean Socheata/VOA Khmer)

The Constitutional Council has officially accepted the contentious Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations, which would tighten regulations on thousands of organizations in the country in what critics fear could mean a major crackdown on basic freedoms and government criticism.

In making its decision, the council rejected arguments made by lawmakers of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, who said the law is unconstitutional.

“The Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations, which was approved by the parliament on July 1, 2015, and recommended and totally agreed on by the Senate, without any changes, on July 24, 2015, was made in line with the constitution,” the decision letter, dated Aug. 12 and signed by Ek Sam Ul, president of the Constitutional Council, says.

The decision puts the bill one step away from becoming law, in what pro-democracy and rights group fear will mean curbs to freedoms of speech and association. The draft law must now be signed into law by King Norodom Sihamoni. Civil society organizations have asked the king to reject it.