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Groups Fear Little Time To Review Latest NGO Law

Rights groups and other organizations say they want the government to release the latest version of a controversial law to regulate NGOs, giving them adequate time to review it before it is again sent to the Council of Ministers for approval.

The NGO law was kicked back to the Ministry of Interior earlier this year after heavy public criticism and fears it could damage the country’s civil society.

Now organizations say they fear they again won’t have time to add recommendations on the latest draft.

“We have not received the draft law from the government yet,” Pung Chhiv Kek, founder of the rights group Licadho, told VOA Khmer. “We want to see the fourth draft. We also want the government to leave us quite enough time for us to meet and discuss before bringing our recommendations to the government.”

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director for the Cambodian Defenders Project, said civic groups will need at least a month to hold discussions and give their recommendations.

NGO representatives say they want to see the draft in January, after the international holiday season and other obligations in December.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the latest version has been redrafted, “but we will put it through one more workshop before we submit it to the Council of Ministers.”

He did not say when such a workshop would be held, but said “all proposed recommendations” from NGOs have been put into the revised draft.

“If so, we certainly welcome it,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights. “But according to their past promises in discussing the second draft, they said all recommendations would be included, but when the actual bill came out there were still some flaws.”