UN calls for transparency in drafting Cambodia's NGO law

The UN envoy has called for transparent and accountability on draft law which NGOs say might stifle freedom of expression and association.

UN calls for transparency in drafting Cambodia's NGO law

World Bulletin / News Desk

A UN special rapporteur has joined a chorus of voices calling for transparency and inclusiveness on a draft law to regulate NGOs that the Cambodian government is expected to pass over the coming weeks.

Maina Kiai, the UN envoy on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, released a statement Friday to publicize his concerns about the secretive handling of the draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations.

He expressed “serious concerns about a process that would result in the adoption of the LANGO without meaningful public participation,” stressing that civil society groups should have been part of the drafting process.

Work on the draft law began in 2008 and has undergone a number of revisions since, with each leaked draft becoming a source of concern for NGOs -- who say it will needlessly restrict their work while potentially stifling freedom of expression and association.

The latest draft of the law has not been made public.

“Sidestepping the democratic process by leaving out civil society actors and their important contribution from the process, and avoiding international scrutiny of legislation, is not without precedent in Cambodia,” Kiai said. “Transparency and accountability are essential elements of any legislative process in a democratic society.”

Kiai visited Cambodia on an unofficial mission early last year, in the wake of a series of protests that had been violently -- and in some cases fatally -- shut down by government forces.

At that time, a draft of the LANGO had said activities by any unregistered groups would be outlawed.

Kiai called this “a clear infringement of the right to freedom of association” and urged the government to include civil society feedback in its drafting of the law.

In his statement Friday, he said he had written to the government about his concerns, but received no response.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told Anadolu Agency on Friday that he didn’t understand the furor surrounding the law, adding that it is currently at the Ministry of Interior for review.

“We have to make sure that the law reflects the authorities involved as well as the interests of organizations and NGOs,” he said.

“We had a consultation with NGOs already to fine tune and make sure this law is for the people. Be patient, in another week then I could release it to everyone.”

He said pressure can be applied on lawmakers once it reaches the national Assembly, where the ruling Cambodian People's Party holds a majority of seats.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Mayıs 2015, 17:30