The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) appeals to the Royal Government of Cambodia to make a sincere and serious effort to revise the current draft Law of Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (LANGO) in line with the international treaties to facilitate, not to obstruct, the civil society’s meaningful and constructive participation in building the country’s participatory democracy and fostering a sound social and economic development.
“We are concerned that the law, if passed in its present form, will place an unnecessary legal burden on the current civil society actors in Cambodia and legitimise the government’s further suppression of critical voices and the critics of the government”, said SEAPA executive director Gayathry Venkiteswaran.
As it stands, the current draft, the fourth since the bill was introduced a year ago, incorporates some changes as recommended in the past few months by a coalition of local and international rights groups. The legislation, however, still severely restricts civil society’s right to freedom of association and expression, therefore obstructing a viable and sustainable functioning of civil society.
The Cambodia-based Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) noted in its latest analysis of the draft code released on 18 December the three major threats in the government bill: (1) the pervasive discrimination against foreign associations and NGOs throughout the LANGO; (2) the lack of clarity and transparency as regards the registration and approval process; and (3) the power that the LANGO grants to the executive to de-register associations and NGOs, with no recourse to appeal.
“SEAPA recognises that the government has its legal interest to register non-profit entities but that interest should be in order to protect, rather than restrict, the role of civil society actors in the interest of the Cambodian people,” Gayathry noted.
SEAPA calls on the government to take into account civil society concerns over the draft law and cease any attempts to impose any unfounded and unnecessary conditions for the registration and operation of the civil society actors in the country. SEAPA reminds the government which is a party to several international treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement to end civil war in Cambodia, the 2007 ASEAN CHARTER, and its own Constitution, to guide the legislative framework.
SEAPA ( http://www.seapabkk.org/ ) is the only regional organization with the specific mandate of promoting and protecting press freedom in Southeast Asia. It is composed of the Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information (ISAI); the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ); the Bangkok-based Thai Journalists Association (TJA); and the network’s Kuala Lumpur-based associate member, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ). SEAPA also has partners in Cambodia, East Timor, and exiled Burmese media, and undertakes projects and programs for press freedom throughout the region.
For inquiries, please contact us at: seapa [at] seapa [dot] org or call +662 243 5579.