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Opposition Party Wary of Revamped NGO Law

Despite concessions made in the drafting of a law to govern NGOs, officials from the main opposition Sam Rainsy Party say the legislation still risks limiting freedoms and can be a setback to good governance.

The NGO law is being drafted by the Ministry of Interior and contains provisions for the regulation of the non-governmental sector. But critics warn that it can bog down organizations in red tape and could limit their functions or efficiency.

Mu Sochua, a Kampot representative for the opposition, told VOA Khmer the government could instead focus on strengthening existing registration mechanisms.

“We don’t see any need to have this law,” she said in an interview Friday. “There should not be such a restrictive law, because it is the people who will lose benefits.”

NGOs contribute to sectors spanning education, health, infrastructure, human rights and democracy, she said, and a law that is too restrictive will inhibit rights guaranteed under the constitution.

The Ministry of Interior last week said it was adjusting provisions in the law that were main areas of concern for many NGOs, and its supporters say the law will not run counter to rights and freedoms.

“This law does not contradict the constitution,” Nuth Sa An, secretary of state for the Ministry of Interior and head of the drafting task force, said. “With the law in place, there will be smooth operation” for NGOs.

The most recent draft of the law reduces the number of founders required for an organization, lower requirements for registration and an amended provision for unregistered NGOs, he said.