Second Consultative Meeting on Draft NGO Law
Phnom Penh, 19.12.2011: Around two hundred participants participated in the second formal consultative workshop at the meeting hall of the Ministry of Interior. The hall is a new, large, and modern facility which could accommodate hundreds of people. Invited participants included Senators, Members of the Parliament, Government’s Officials, members of the Diplomatic Corps, United Nations, International Organizations, INGOs, LNGOs, CBOs, local authorities etc.
H.E. Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior (MOI), presided over the meeting. He referred to the background of the working on draft NGO Law (since 1996, 2000, 2006 and 2010), the first consultative meeting, the task force meeting and the working group of MOI and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The drafting committee has consulted with the similar law of other countries such as: China, India, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Russia, USA, France, Korea and the Philippines. “The objective of this meeting is to hear comments and suggestions from members of the civil society organizations to improve the law”, said Sar Kheng, during his opening remarks. He mentioned also that this gathering would not be the last one, if the consensus on the draft law could not be reached. He praised the “partnership between government and civil society for developing our country” as highlighted in the rectangular strategy of the Royal Government.
During the meeting twenty-two representatives of different organizations and local authorities got the opportunity to raise appreciation, comments, concerns, suggestions and recommendations to the MOI concerning this fourth draft law. In comparison to the previous drafts (11 chapters and 58 articles), the current one has 9 chapters and 34 articles. It is believed that this new one is much better written. The government has improved and deleted some articles which were controversial in the third draft. But, representatives of INGOs, NGOs, and Associations etc were still skeptical to the vague formulation in the draft. MOI took the suggestions both in verbal and written format and it gave one week for other comments or suggestions. The most important point is that both sides have spent time to talk and listen to each other in a constructive way. With 90 MPs in the 123 Seats Parliament, the ruling party could pass any law if it wanted to do so. When I discussed this subject with Dr. Yang Saing Koma, few days ago, he mentioned that it is good that the government is listening to our voices or concerns and he suggested that the government should organize “Government and NGOs Forum” similar to “Government and Private Sector Forum”, which happened regularly in the past years.
In his speech to the audience during the Diplomas Handover Ceremony at Vanda Institute today (28.12.11), Prime Minister Hun Sen praised the contribution of NGOs and other civil society organizations, both local and foreign ones, in helping to develop Cambodia and said that Cambodia should have an NGO/Association law which is accepted by everybody. For him, there is no need to rush, if there is no consensus among all stakeholders. His government could wait and “we can still discuss on this law in 2012, 2013 or even 2014”. It is a good news for Cambodia if it is the real intention of his government. But, we will have on January 29, Senate Elections; June 3, 2012, Commune Councils Elections and July 2013 National Elections. Any Government needs to be nice for people’s vote. In 2014, it is like a saying “After Elections, it is not the same as Before Elections”. If a good deal could be made and the law will be passed before Elections in 2013, it would be a great thing.