Phnom Penh (dpa) – The passage of a law on NGOs and local
associations in parliament is the latest step in nearly a decade of
official efforts to regulate the sector.
NGOs flocked to Cambodia in the early 1990s when it began its
transition to democracy under the auspices of the United Nations
Transitional Authority, which ruled the country from 1991 until 1993.
Hundreds of NGOs stayed on to fill gaps in social services and
provide development assistance.
Government figures say there are more than 4,000 NGOs operating in
Cambodia, but NGO Forum on Cambodia, a coalition of major
organizations, says the number is closer to 1,330.
The sector employs around 450,000 people – including a significant
proportion of foreigners – and is responsible for 600 to 700 million
dollars in projects and aid each year, according to NGO Forum.
“Millions of people are impacted [by NGOs] in terms of social
redevelopment and in terms of community development,” said the
group’s executive director Tek Vannara.
The Interior Ministry reportedly began drafting the NGO bill in 2006,
and it has been a matter of heated political debate ever since.
The government has argued that the law simply mirrors similar
legislation in many Western countries, while critics fear it will be
used to muzzle the NGO sector.