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NGO Law ‘Unnecessary’: Legal Expert

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodia Defenders Project.

The government is continuing with a draft law to oversee non-governmental organizations, but the head of a prominent legal group says the legislation is unnecessary and open to abuse.

The law on NGOs has been distributed to organizations for their input ahead of a government forum, said Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodia Defenders Project, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

The law will require NGOs to provide financial reports and action plans to the government.

“This can be a problem, because if the government restricts [NGO activities], it can be difficult for civil society to operate,” he said.

Civil society organizations contribute significantly to national development, he said, on issues like freedom of expression and legal representation. The Cambodia Defenders Project has had lawyers handle up to 3,000 cases, he said.

The current draft has provisions that should be eliminated, such as the involvement of the government in appraising the work of international organizations, he said.

Callers expressed skepticism the law would do any better for civil society groups.

“This law will only serve for additional restrictions on civil society’s work,” said Kong Kea, a caller from Takeo province.