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Ministry to conduct CSO census

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Interior Minister, Sar Kheng gave a speech at the Ministry of Interior last year. Pha Lina

Ministry to conduct CSO census

The Ministry of Interior and the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC) are to conduct a census aimed at ascertaining the exact number of registered civil society organisations (CSOs) in the Kingdom, the ministry’s General Department of Administration director-general Prak Sam Oeun told The Post on Monday.

He said the census would help strengthen cooperation and partnership between the government and the CSOs.

Sam Oeun said a joint group comprising representatives from his department and the CCC will visit grassroots organisations to collect data.

“We have yet to start [the census] but a MoU between the CCC and the General Department of Administration has been signed. We will discuss when to start the procedures of the project. It will be easier to support and cooperate with each other when we know the exact figure,” he said.

The initiative, Sam Oeun said, came after the ministry received annual reports from only about 2,000 CSOs out of more than 5,500 that have been recorded, without knowing the whereabouts of the remaining ones and what activities they were conducting.

Some 5,320 CSOs

The General Department of Administration reported that, as of the end of last year, a total of 5,523 CSOs had been registered at the ministry.

CCC executive director Soeung Saroeun said the census will be conducted from now until the end of October and will help the ministry and CSOs to have real data on the organisations. He said the census will strengthen communication between CSOs and the Ministry of Interior.

“We have started to prepare [the census] and we are drawing up a plan to carry out actual visits on the ground. We are preparing a working group and a plan with the ministry in order to decide which provinces we go to and what the important issues are."

“We want an update on the NGOs that have registered with the ministry, how many are actually operating and how many are carrying out activities aimed at strengthening the partnership,” he said.

Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the census is part of legal measures being carried out to study associations and NGOs since, in the past, some of them had carried out their activities illegally and against their statutes.

He said the ministry has the authority to investigate their activities to ensure they comply with their statutes as filed [at the ministry] and that their work does not affect security, public order or social stability.

Phea said the increase in the number of NGOs to more than 5,000 proves that Cambodia provides a free scope for them and is a haven for such organisations. However, some of them run like businesses and earn profits in the interest of certain individuals only.

In addition, he said, some world powers have used CSOs to link to their political agenda that seeks to change the government.

“Some civil society organisations . . . they run like businesses. Some organisations and associations run a business for the interests of their leaders. Some are aided by foreign powers who use this mechanism to link their political agenda through organisations and associations and to grassroots citizens,” he said.

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