HRW calls for release of NGO draft law text

By: Alice Cuddy

A major rights group yesterday urged the government to drop plans to adopt a controversial law next month that it says could severely restrict the activities of non-governmental organisations and associations.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the government to “immediately” make public the long-disputed draft law on associations and non-governmental organisations and engage NGOs “in an open consultation process”.

The law, which has been in the works since at least 2006, has been criticised by many activists, who say it is an attempt to curtail their freedom of movement.

“Cambodia’s donors should inform the government that they will reject attempts to arbitrarily de-register organisations or otherwise curb basic freedoms to association and expression,” HRW said yesterday.

The statement followed an announcement from Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month that the law “will pass through the Council of Ministers no later than May before it is sent to the National Assembly, and the draft law will be passed without any obstacles”.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that the draft was “still in the Ministry of Interior”.

He said NGOs had already been adequately consulted and argued that those opposing the law are looking for an excuse to be critical.

“The NGOs have another chance to challenge the law at the National Assembly,” he added.

SOURCE: THE PHNOM PENH POST