Eight prominent international organizations issued a statement Thursday urging the Cambodian government to drop a controversial law to regulate NGOs, claiming it would hurt development in the country.
“Cambodia’s proposed law could too easily be used to refuse registration or close down organizations that serve the public interest,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement.
The statement was signed by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Forum Asia, Global Witness, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, Frontline Defenders, Fidh and OMCT.
They called the new law a “significant threat” to Cambodian civil society groups. On Wednesday, 62 international NGOs working in Cambodia stated their strong opposition to the law, which local groups say will hamper their effectiveness and leaves them vulnerable government interference.
The Ministry of Interior, which is in charge of drafting the law, has said it will not be discussed with groups again before it is passed on to the Council of Ministers for approval and National Assembly debate.
“We cannot throw away the draft law,” said Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the ministry. “To throw it away means we throw away the 1993 constitution.”
The eight groups said the draft requires “excessive,” compulsory registration and provides few legal safeguards for NGOs that are vulnerable to abuse of the law.
Cambodia has an estimated 3,000 associations and organizations operating outside the government. Proponents say the new law, which has 11 chapters and 58 articles, will help regulate the sector.