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Hundreds of Opponents of NGO Bill Deliver Petition to Lawmakers

Around 300 demonstrators submit petition preventing the passage of a controversial draft NGO law in front of the National Assembly on June 23, 2015. (Hean Socheata/VOA Khmer)

A group of 300 pro-democracy and rights organizations and their supporters delivered a petition to the National Assembly on Tuesday, calling for lawmakers to reject a draft law to regulate NGOs.

Opponents say the bill is unnecessary and will potentially hamper the work of thousands of NGOs in the country, while acting as a tool to curtail government criticism.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party has said it will likely pass the bill, which has been championed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which holds only 55 of 123 seats, has said it will try to stop the bill’s passage.

Outside the National Assembly on Tuesday, opponents of the law marched with loudspeakers and banners that said, “Stop” and “Say No.” Inside, the Assembly’s standing committee was discussing the draft law before sending it to a special committee for review.

Mi Sovann, 30, who is employed by a local NGO, said almost everyone from his organization had joined the protest on Tuesday, fearing the law would put restrictions on them or lead to a loss of jobs.

“I think some NGOs will close, and their employees will be gradually unemployed once the law is fully implemented,” he said, “while foreign donors will provide fewer funds to civil society.”

Rescue Party lawmaker Son Chhay accepted the petition at the Assembly, promising that he and his party members are working to prevent passage of the law.

CPP lawmaker Chheang Von told VOA Khmer he plans to make sure the draft is put through public consultation before sending it to the full Assembly for debate.