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Groups Join Workshop With NGO Law Concerns

Cambodian NGOs at a social forum.
Cambodian NGOs at a social forum.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng ruled out concerns from non-governmental groups on Monday that a new draft law will prompt threats or attacks on them.

The NGO Law seeks tighter controls on the myriad non-governmental agencies that exist in Cambodia, but critics say it creates tangles of red tape that could be used to attack groups that don't follow the government line.

Sar Kheng told some 300 participants at the outset of a workshop on the law on Monday that the government “has no intention of threatening or pressuring associations or non-governmental organizations.”

The government allows at least 3,000 NGOs to operate, he said, and was allowing a discussion on the new law this week.

However, some NGOs leaders remain unconvinced.

Sin Somuny, executive director of the group Medican, said the draft law could restrict rights and freedoms by putting strict controls on NGOs and their registration processes.

“The draft law in its current form, will restrict the work of these organizations, as it places significant barriers on their registration and implementation of their work,” according to a statement released by NGOs ahead of Monday's workshop. “The effect will be to reduce funding for the many important development projects currently delivered in collaboration with the government and to reduce potential new funding sources for long-term development.”

Sar Kheng said the Interior Ministry will accept recommendations from NGOs before it submits the final draft to the Council of Ministers.