The Cambodian parliament passed a new law on Monday making changes to the regulation of more than 5,000 local and international non-governmental organisations (NGO) in the country.
While all 68 parliament members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) voted in favour of the law, 55 members of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) boycotted the voting session.
According to the new legislation, NGOs in Cambodia must report all their financial and social activities to the government. Moreover, the NGOs must not “jeopardise peace, stability and public order or harm the national security, national unity, culture, and traditions of Cambodian society."
The legislation, known as the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO), enables the government to pursue legal action such as bans and suspension of licences against NGOs which do not comply with the law.
CPP parliament member Nin Saphon told Cambodia’s national assembly that "Before, we were not able to control NGOs, where their funding came from and how it was used. We need to have this law now.”
Speaking on the law, Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng said that "Nothing is perfect. People have the right to criticise."
Trying to ease tensions in parliament during the vote, Sar Kheng said, "Don't worry. This law will not affect or restrict the rights and freedoms of civil society groups."
During the voting process, activists rallied in streets. Police took precautionary measures and blocked access to the streets near the parliament building.
— APHR (@ASEANMP) July 14, 2015
The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association, the UN Human Rights Committee, several diplomatic representatives and most recently the EU parliament criticised the newly introduced LANGO law and urged the Cambodian government to guarantee transparency in the application of the law.
— LICADHO (@licadho) July 14, 2015
The opposition CNRP released a statement saying the parliament will use LANGO to "pressure and restrict" peoples and organisations who have different points of view.
The executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights Chak Sopheap criticised the new law saying "today is a very sad day for civil society in Cambodia.”
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights also released a statement saying “It is deeply deplorable that the government of Cambodia has decided to pursue a rushed adoption process of a deeply undemocratic law and has ignored the local and global call for a participatory drafting process. Cambodian and international civil society organisations.”
— John Coughlan (@sunnyvilnius) July 13, 2015
NGOs throughout the world
The Indian government recently decided to cancel the licenses of nearly 9,000 charity organisations. The government wants NGOs to declare details of their foreign donations. According to the government’s declaration, the NGOs were ordered to file mandatory annual returns and those that did not comply would not find a place in India.
Countries such as Uzbekistan, China, Russia, Egypt and Venezuela also restrict the activities of foreign funded NGOs.