Gov’t Says Debate is Open, but NGOs Boycott LANGO Workshop


    Sunday, 05 July 2015; News by Khmer Times/Muny Sithyna and Ros Chanveasna

    PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – The human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) Licado and Adhoc both say they will not attend Wednesday’s consultation workshop on the controversial draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO) hosted by the National Assembly.

    They believe the meeting will not be an authentic discussion of the law with the potential for change. However, Cambodia’s Interior Minister said to Khmer Times on Saturday, “We are still open to discussion and debate about the draft (law).” Minister Sar Kheng was at the US Embassy for a July 4th ceremony. At that event, US Ambassador William Todd declared that a healthy civil society is fundamental to Cambodia’s future.

    Other NGOs and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have reserved decision on whether to attend the consultation workshop until a collective decision can be made.

    Workshop: Too Little, Too Late

    “We won’t be going on Wednesday,” said Ny Chakrya, Adhoc Head of Human Rights and Legal Aid section referring to the National Assembly’s consultation workshop. “From what I see in the event agenda, nobody can discuss a law for one-and-a half-hours like this. It is not a discussion.”

    “Every draft law should be put up for discussion from the beginning. And from what Mr. Chheang Vun said, the discussion with the government is just to change the wordings, not the content,” Mr. Chakrya added.

    Licadho Technical Coordinator, Am Sam Ath, agreed with Mr. Chakrya and called Wednesday’s workshop a “presentation” rather than a discussion.

    “The workshop is just to complete the process where the national assembly will present the purposes of this draft law. Licadho has already submitted an analysis report on the impact of this draft law. So I think Licadho does not need to join the consultation workshop,” he said.

    “We do not believe that the National Assembly will make any changes on the content of this law,” said Mr. Sam Ath. “The intention of the ruling party is pushing the law to be adopted. So with or without the workshop on July 8, the law will still be adopted.”

    Lawmaker: NGOs Want Chaos

    Chheang Vun, head of the fifth commission in charge of reviewing the draft law, said that the public discussion of a proposed law is routine in a democratic state.

    “These NGOs will never like whatever we do because they live on foreigners’ money and kill their own Cambodians,” said Mr. Vun, referring to critics of the draft law. “They want to cause instability, and unrest in our society. The NGOs are the tool to topple the legitimate government.”

    “There are around 5,000 NGOs in Cambodia and we invited over one hundred NGOs to join the workshop, so a few that won’t show up is fine,” he added.

    National Consultation Led by CSOs

    While Adhoc and Licado stand firmly by their decision not to attend the consultation, the Cambodia Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and the NGO Forum on Cambodia are reser-ving decision, and have called a meeting for this purpose to be convened a day before the National Assembly consultation on Tuesday.

    “We are not sure yet,” said Chak Sopheap, executive director of CCHR. “We will consult with other civil society organizations and wait for a collective stance whether to join the National Assembly workshop.”

    Executive Director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, Tek Vannara, claimed that a real consultation should come with a two or three week notice and attachment of the draft law. But, until this moment, the NGO Forum has not seen any official documents from the National Assembly.

    The CSO-led consultation on LANGO will be held on Tuesday at Hotel Cambodiana, where a legal analysis of the draft law will be presented. Approximately 250 participants are expected to attend from civil society, parliament and relevant ministries.

    Their discussion is expected to result in a collective stance on whether to join the Wednesday workshop on LANGO at the National Assembly. (Additional reporting by James Brooke)