A civil society official has expressed disappointment at the lack of cooperation at a recent Civil Society Alliance Forum (CSAF) dialogue in Kampong Chhnang province, while a senior provincial official said his administration was actively seeking to improve the situation.
Tot Kimsroy, the coordinator of the Indigenous Rights Protection Organisation (IRPO) in Kampong Chhnang province, said he had not expected that the forum would enable positive cooperation with his organisation.
But he said that following its formation two or three years ago, cooperation between IRPO and local authorities seemed nonexistent.
On Monday, the CSAF and the Kampong Chhnang provincial administration held a dialogue under the theme Strengthening Cooperation Between Civil Society Organisations and the Royal Government.
Kimsroy said the Ministry of Interior had instructed civil society organisations to provide three days’ notice before carrying out any activities.
But he said after submitting a letter when the IRPO went down to carry out grassroots activities, the authorities arrived to prevent them. “So I don’t think it’s effective with regard to cooperation.
“Yesterday [Monday], unions, associations and communities raised many issues with regard to the National Social Security Fund, employee leave and the legal compliance of companies, such as Chinese companies.
“What we heard were only a lot of promises from His Excellency the Secretary of State of the Council of Ministers,” he said.
Kampong Chhnang provincial deputy governor Sun Sovannarith assured The Post that his administration wanted to improve relations with civil society organisations to help them fulfil their missions successfully.
“We listen to the recommendations from communities and civil society organisations with regard to all the authorities’ failings so we can correct them,” he said.
Sovannarith said his administration would try to find partner organisations, such as the Civil Society Alliance, in order to help with funding, and through any means possible, to help civil society organisations to move forward.
He said more than 140 requests were raised and his working group would finish its report and submit it to the provincial governor in the next two or three days, after which the group would check the requests and begin to resolve them step by step.
Sovannarith said that as far as he was aware, the authorities had not prevented any civil society organisations carrying out grassroots activities but, if it did occur, he asked the organisations to phone him directly.
“When they raised their problems, no organisation said they had been prevented from carrying out activities,” he said.
One of the main issues raised, Sovannarith said, concerned a Chinese business owner paying staff salaries irregularly and he had already assigned officials to look into it.
Another issue was that some authorities encroached on villagers’ land – and this too was being addressed.
There was a complaint about a pond being dug near a village community, Sovannarith said, and he had prioritised the issue and asked technical officials to inspect the site.
Sam Chankea, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, told The Post that his organisation had not been invited to the forum and wondered why that was the case.