A coalition of Cambodian nongovernmental organizations will stage a peaceful protest on Monday outside parliament in the capital Phnom Penh to oppose proposed legislation that they say will restrict their activities, an official with a prominent domestic rights groups said.
Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator with the NGO Licadho, told RFA’s Khmer Service that the groups want to derail the draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO) on which members of parliament will vote early next week.
“We are holding a massive gathering demanding that the National Assembly not approve the draft law,” he said.
He warned that the lawmakers who vote for the draft law would not receive support from NGOs.
“If they lawmakers don’t listen to voters, they are not lawmakers,” he said.
Yim Sovann, spokesman of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said his party has not decided whether its lawmakers will participate in the assembly vote.
“We will meet tomorrow to discuss whether we will join the assembly or not but the party’s stance is to urge the government to delay the passage of the draft law,” he said, adding that the CNRP stands by NGOs’ recommendations.
On Tuesday, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of 21 NGOs, held a press conference in the capital Phnom Penh to denounce the draft law – echoing widespread international criticism from the United States, United Nations and European Union.
The next day, the CNRP walked out of a public consultation on the draft law held by parliament on Wednesday because it wanted the National Assembly to return the proposed legislation to the Council of Ministers to amend some articles that would affect NGOs’ rights and operations.
The Council of Ministers and the heads of some ministries revised parts of the draft on Thursday, including reducing the required number of NGO founders to three from five and eliminating a provision barring former leaders of deregistered organizations from stating new groups, according to The Phnom Penh Post.
While the revisions were being made, about 3,000 activists gathered Freedom Park in Phnom Penh to denounce the draft law, which they said was “poison.”
NGOs and rights groups believe the draft law violates their rights to freedom of assembly and expression and is out of sync with the country’s constitution and international human rights conventions.
But the government argues that the law is necessary to regulate the NGO sector.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.