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18th Session of the Human Rights Council Interactive Dialogue on Cambodia

28 September 2011, Delivered by Renate Bloem

 

Thank you, Mme President,

This is a joint statement by our partner the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, which represents over 130 members as well as the more than 400 endorsees of the Joint Statement on the Law on Association and NGOs.

We thank Professor Subedi for his report and want to underline that we appreciate that state-civil society cooperation has been a key factor in the development of Cambodia from a war-torn country to a peaceful, vibrant developing country. While government and civil society organizations have often held different opinions, these bodies have met in constructive discussions and cooperated.

The proposed Law on Associations and NGOs (LANGO) indicates a departure from this successful path. Civil society organizations are very concerned that the third draft of the law grants far-reaching power to government authorities to control the rights of citizens to organize and express themselves. These rights are set out in the Cambodian Constitution and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Cambodia has signed and ratified, as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The diversity of civil society in Cambodia all stand together and united: the draft law we now see before us is unacceptable. 

New laws must not infringe upon the fundamental rights of the people, including their rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression. 

In our view, the LANGO fails to respect the fundamental rights outlined above. 

During the consultation process, civil society organizations have clearly pointed out these weaknesses. We are deeply disappointed that the third draft fails to address these main areas of concern. 

We therefore collectively and respectfully call on the Royal Government of Cambodia to reconsider our key recommendations and incorporate them in the next draft of the Law. We also ask that the final draft be shared publicly before it is approved by the Council of Ministers or reviewed and voted on by the National Assembly. 

We urge the Council to:

  • Demand the Cambodian government shares updates made to the draft law before it is passed to the National Assembly
  • Urge the Cambodian government to ensure that participation in the process of consultation is meaningful and that CSO voices are heard
  • Work with Cambodian counterparts to ensure the law’s restrictive measures are removed to ensure that a strong, vibrant civil society is allowed to prosper in Cambodia
  • Demand that articles related to mandatory registration are re-worded to allow voluntary registration

Thank you, Mme. President

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