Home > Local News > Cambodia Should Rethink Its Plan For NGOs

Cambodia Should Rethink Its Plan For NGOs

The Cambodian government is considering plans to impose controls on the
large number of foreign and domestic non-governmental organizations.
Cordell Jacks, who heads International Development Enterprises
Cambodia’s water and sanitation program, stands next to one of the
award-winning EZ Latrines that the charity hopes will help improve
sanitation in rural Cambodia. A new law would put restrictions on such
organizations.

Photo: Courtesy: R. Carmichael
We urge Cambodian officials to reconsider whether such a measure is needed. 
The Cambodian government is considering plans to impose controls on the
large number of foreign and domestic non-governmental organizations
that operate medical, educational, humanitarian, civil society and
other programs in their country.

The law, as currently drafted
and announced in December, would impose burdensome restrictions on
civil society organizations, including requirements to register and
report their activities every year, in addition to several other vague
requirements for obtaining permission to continue their work. The Royal
Government of Cambodia says the law is needed to increase transparency
among the Southeast Asian nation’s network of NGOs, and prevent
terrorists and criminal gangs from using groups based in Cambodia as
fronts for their operations.

The move is drawing mounting
criticism from civil society representatives, who fear the law
represents an effort by the government to control what their groups do
for the Cambodian people and where they do it. Small community-based
groups say compliance with the current draft law would be difficult and
could threaten their very existence.

The United States shares
these concerns, opposing any law that constrains the legitimate
activities of NGOs. We urge Cambodian officials to reconsider whether
such a measure is needed.

A strong and free civil society is
vital to strengthening democratic institutions, enhancing economic and
humanitarian well-being and promoting a sustainable economy. In
Cambodia, as in many other countries, NGOs and other similar groups
make important contributions in these areas. Government officials there
have asked for input from civil society representatives about the draft
law, and the United States urges the Royal Government of Cambodia to
take their concerns very seriously as they move forward on the issue.

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