Freedom House Encouraged by Further Consultations on Cambodia NGO Law

Freedom House welcomes Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s announcement to postpone the passage of the Law on Associations and NGOs (LANGO) until a consensus is reached between the government and civil society.  On December 28, Hun Sen gave a speech at the National Institute of Education’s graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, telling the audience that he was willing to work with NGOs to pursue further consultation until 2014, before a final draft that is acceptable to both parties is reached and delivered to the Council of Ministers.  Last week, the Ministry of the Interior held the most recent round of consultations with civil society to discuss the fourth draft of the LANGO, only to reach yet another impasse over the law’s most restrictive provisions, including an inadequate appeal process and an essentially mandatory registration requirement.  Hoping to reach a compromise by the end of 2011, Hun Sen’s announcement yesterday praised the accomplishments of civil society and offered two final outcomes:  either pass a revised law or to abandon the LANGO altogether.  If the law is abandoned entirely, Hun Sen said that Article 42 of the Cambodian Constitution, stating that all citizens have the right to establish NGOs and political parties, would need to be removed.

Cambodian governance lacks the checks and balances found in functioning democracies limiting arbitrary action by the executive branch of government. Since the release of the first draft of the LANGO in December 2010, Freedom House has opposed any  provisions within the law that would place additional restrictions on civil society.  Freedom House believes that the LANGO is redundant since existing legislation, including the Civil Code, provides an adequate legal framework to effectively regulate NGOs operating within the country. On December 22, Freedom House signed a joint statement calling for fundamental revisions or the withdrawal of the latest draft of the LANGO in order to protect and enable civil society to operate freely. 
 
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