Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cambodia attempts to strictly regulate NGOs

Cambodia has drafted a law that will impose strict regulations on Non-Governmental Organizations that operate in the country. If passed, the law will give Cambodia the ability to shut down NGOs without any chance to appeal. The law has been broadly criticized as a move to restrict public freedom.

From Reuters, writer Prak Chan Thul describes the bill and how this is part of a troubling trend in Cambodia.

Cambodia says it wants to regulate more than 3,000 foreign and local NGOs and civil society groups, but opponents argue the law will give the state powers to shut them down for no reason and with no right of appeal.

The draft follows the passage of draconian laws in the past 18 months that increased punishment for defamation and placed restrictions on protests. Rights groups say that is designed to intimidate government critics and the political opposition.

Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the law would give the Interior Ministry "boundless discretition" to disband any body it disagreed with and many organisations would be unable to meet registration requirements.

"Such a result will have chilling repercussions for the freedom of association and expression of ordinary people and will significantly reduce the democratic space in Cambodia," he said. Cambodia, one of Asia's poorest countries, is enjoying an unprecedented period of stability and economic growth after decades of civil war.

But critics and aid donors say its democratic credentials are still lagging those of other Asian countries and that its human rights record is worsening.

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