The government’s working group coordinating civil society organisations’ (CSO) proposals and requests to amend the Law on Association and Non-governmental Organisations (Lango) held its latest meeting on Monday at the Ministry of Interior.
Ministry secretary of state and working group director Bun Honn said: “After this meeting, we will report to Minister Sar Kheng and request an internal meeting of the working group.”
Honn said according to procedure, the government alone is responsible for making a decision on any amendment to the law.
He said CSOs may be involved at other stages of the process. There will be a consultation forum between the government and CSOs in the future.
“We have to continue our consultations next month. CSOs participated at the meeting and can participate in other workshops we may organise.
“CSOs can also join the process via representatives of parliament when the draft law reaches the National Assembly if there are any amendments to another article,” he said.
The working group and the representatives of the 500 CSOs which exist in Cambodia issued a joint statement after the meeting which said they discussed 17 articles in Lango.
“The working group, as well as the Ministry of Interior, has committed to preparing the next consultative meeting with representatives of the CSOs with the aim of strengthening partnerships between the government and CSOs to expand and strengthen the democratic process in Cambodia,” the statement said.
Monitoring and advocacy coordinator for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) and CSO representative Korn Savang attended the meeting on Monday.
He said throughout the meetings with the working group, which began last November, CSOs discussed their requests and concerns. But the outcome of the amendment is still unknown as the process is continuing.
“At the first meeting, our CSOs proposed to proceed with the amendment of this law with 17 articles. At the last meeting, we decided on 14 articles that we wanted to be amended,” he said.
Among the 14 articles, he said there were issues related to the registration procedure of CSOs, tax reporting procedures and issues involving punishments levied for certain offences.
“Our civil society organisations view that the articles on the Criminal Code of this law and some procedures are not in line with the Cambodian Constitution. These are where we proposed amendments,” he said.
Soeung Sen Karuna, the senior investigator of human rights group Adhoc, also attended the meeting and said the government had given CSOs the opportunity to propose and clarify amendments to the law.
“The discussions in the past have borne fruitful results. But what CSOs are unhappy about is that this has taken longer than any other legal amendment.
“Therefore, we also want to have consultations on the amendment at each stage for a speedy review of the CSOs’ requests,” he said.