Local and international development organizations say they want to contribute to a new law to govern them but say they have not yet been given a chance to do so.
The Ministry of Interior is preparing a draft law on non-governmental organizations, but development officials say they have not been able to see it yet.
In a joint statement by 66 NGOs last week, groups said they wanted to contribute meaningful input to the draft law. Meanwhile, the agencies are worred they will not be given enough time to make recommendations before the law is passed to the Council of Ministers for review.
“NGOs encourage regulations which help reduce unethical, illegal, and irresponsible activities,” the groups said. “We welcome the opportunity to cooperate with the government in a constructive consultation concerning the law, to insure that comments and concerns from civil society are taken into account by the government when considering the effects of any new NGO regulations.”
Chhith Sam Ath, director of NGO Forum, a consortium of organizations, said the groups want to share ideas and concerns with the government before the law is fully drafted.
“NGOs must have an opportunity for recommendation to the draft law to ensure that the law is good for implementation and that NGOs’ recommendations and concerns are accepted by government,” he said.
The NGOs say they need at least one month to look at the draft law “to provide a coherent and comprehensive response to the law. This will also enable us to look at the full implications of the law and its effects on all sectors in society.”
Pung Chhiv Kek, president of the rights group Licadho, said Cambodia already has enough laws to govern NGOs.
“If the government still wants to make this law to control local and foreign NGOs, we want the government to spend more time to discuss the draft law with local and foreign NGOs,” she said.
Officials for the Ministry of Interior could not be reached for comment Monday, but the ministry said last month it wanted the support of NGOs and other organizations. No draft has yet been sent, and it is unclear when the draft will be finished.
Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the concerns of the NGOs are appreciated, but they must follow the rule of law. He said he expected to see the law early next year.
“This draft law is to provide a good service to the civil society to be a partner in the social construction and development,” he said. “Civil society should provide its recommendation and purpose to the Ministry of Interior before the draft law arrives at the Council of Ministers.”