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Senior Diplomat Calls NGO Law Unnecessary

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Scott Busby, second from right, talks with Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, second from left, during a meeting inside, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. S

A senior US diplomat has raised concerns over a proposed law to govern NGOs in Cambodia.

Following a two-day visit, US Deputy Assistance Secretary of State Scott Busby told reporters Tuesday that Cambodia should reconsider the law.

Busby, who is the head of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said the new law could impose “restrictions or burdens on NGOs.”

The US believes the law is unnecessary, he said, but if the government does go forward with it, officials should make the draft of the law public “as soon as possible.”

“We don’t believe it is necessary,” he said. “But if [the government] decides it is, [we request] that it shares the text of the law with the public.”

Pro-democracy and rights groups fear the law could be used to curb dissent and criticism of the government.

On his visit, Busby met with Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong, as well as key human rights leaders.

Hor Namhong told reporters Tuesday the draft law is not meant to impose undue burdens on NGOs. Civil society will have a chance to comment on the draft when it goes to the National Assembly for debate, he said.

At a ceremony in Kampong Speu province on Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the draft law will put associations and NGOs in line with Cambodia’s constitution, and it will go forward.