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Legal Expert Says Draft Law Could Inhibit Future NGOs

Tek Vannara, (2nd from the right) executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia and Soeung Saroeun, (2nd from the left) executive director of Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC), and two community representatives made presentations expressing their disappointment on the draft law on association and non-governmental organizations. The presentations were made at a seminar on consultation of this draft law. The seminar was held at Phnom Penh's Cambodiana Hotel on July 07 2015. (Hul Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)

Hundreds of opponents to a controversial law to regulate NGOs met in a hotel in Phnom Penh Tuesday, as a campaign against the passage of the legislation continues.

Zach Lampell, a legal advisor at the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law, told those gathered that he had analyzed the law and believes its intent is to prevent the formation of associations in the future.

The law as drafted appears restrictive on registration processes and would allow for arbitrary closure of NGOs, as well, he said.

“The registration standards are not clearly defined, and therefore it’s impossible to know whether they would be consistent with international law,” he said. “Additionally, once an association or NGO is registered, the draft law doesn’t provide standards to guide supervision over associations and NGOs. Without a clear or limited list of grounds for suspension or deletion, there is a risk that such decision will be made arbitrarily.”

About 100 activists continue to protest the law outside the National Assembly. No clashes were reported Tuesday, though heavy security has been deployed outside the building.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador William Todd urged the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to continue discussions on the draft law with their constituents.

“Without a doubt, NGOs and other civil society organizations have played a vital role in Cambodia’s development,” he wrote in a recent blog post. “This network has helped to fill gaps in health, education, and other public services, particularly for those living in rural and underserved communities.”