Update: In August 2015, Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia signed and promulgated the controversial Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO), despite widespread criticism from civil society and the international community that the law would impede civil society in Cambodia. Among concerns with the LANGO are mandatory registration for all domestic and international associations; unfettered discretion by the Ministry of Interior over registration, and the requirement of “political neutrality” applicable to all associations and organizations. Also in August, the Constitutional Council of Cambodia found that the LANGO is in compliance with the constitution.
Despite earlier assurances from the Ministry of Interior that the LANGO would not apply to community-based organizations (CBOs), several small CBOs have been barred from meeting on the grounds that they lack registration under the newly enacted LANGO.
Cambodia is an example of a post-conflict society in which traditional forms of civil society organizations (CSOs) were devastated and then re-emerged in new forms as part of the reconstruction process. CSOs include Buddhist institutions, trade unions, media associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In 1989 the first humanitarian international NGOs (INGOs) arrived and the establishment of local NGOs soon followed.
The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) and development partners recognize that NGOs and INGOs have made an important contribution to rehabilitation, reconstruction and development for the past 30 years. NGOs are viewed as important partners in the delivery of basic social services. Formally the RGC has a number of mechanisms that involve NGOs in national development strategy formulation and policy implementation and dialogue. In practice, however, NGOs have limited influence on government strategy and policy, and an increasingly limited space for dialogue.
Aside the service provision sphere, the environment for NGOs is not enabling. NGOs involved in advocacy, legal rights and human rights are seen by the RGC as unwanted opposition, and the environment for their activity is restrictive. The Cambodia People’s Party (CPP), which maintains control over the Cambodian State, is becoming more authoritarian despite an increasingly vocal political opposition. There is widespread concern from NGOs and other stakeholders on key issues relating to the increased violation of land rights and the restriction of fundamental human rights, such as the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Human rights defenders are continually the target of threats and attacks. The recent UN UPR submissions and outcomes document this.
The current legal framework is open to discretion and its implementation saddled by a weak understanding of the concept of civil society. There is no effective judiciary or effective rule of law in Cambodia. The RGC has recently taken the unprecedented step of including civil society leaders within the scope of the newly enacted Anti-Corruption Law, by requiring them to disclose their assets. From December 2010 through December 2011, the RGC issued four versions of a restrictive draft Law on Associations and NGOs and ultimately promulgated the final version in August 2015, despite wide protests from citizens, civil society and the international community regarding both its content and the lack of meaningful public participation in crafting the law. Among concerns with the law are mandatory registration for all domestic and international associations, unfettered ministerial discretion over registration, and the requirement of “political neutrality” by all associations and NGOs.
|Organizational Forms||NGOs and associations|
|Registration Body||The Ministry of Interior is responsible for local NGOs and associations. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is responsible for international NGOs.|
|Approximate Number||Approximately 4,953 registered NGOs and associations (it is estimated that approximately 1,350 organizations remain active).|
|Barriers to Entry||Registration is mandatory for all NGOs and associations. The procedural requirements for the registration of both domestic and international NGOs are complex and burdensome. Procedural safeguards regarding registration are lacking, with the Government having full discretion to deny registration.|
|Barriers to Activities||Advance notification to the state or governmental approval is required for certain activities. International NGOs are subject to reporting requirements on a quarterly basis. The RGC is increasingly applying pressure and intimidation on certain NGOs and the communities in which they work.|
|Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy||Laws criminalizing defamation, disinformation, and incitement.|
|Barriers to International Contact||No barriers|
|Barriers to Resources||No barriers|
|Barriers to Assembly||Vague definition; right restricted to Cambodian citizens only; excessive use of force on protesters; restrictive prior notification requirements which in practice act as a prior permission regime.|
|Type of Government||Multiparty democracy under a constitutional monarchy|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||Male: 60.03 years
Female: 64.27 years (2009 est.)
|Literacy Rate||Male: 84.7%
|Religious Groups||Buddhist: 96.4%; Muslim: 2.1%; other: 1.3%; unspecified: 0.2% (1998 census).
|Ethnic Groups||Ethnic Groups Khmer: 90%; Vietnamese: 5%; Chinese: 1%; other:4%.|
|GDP per capita||3,300 (2014 est.)|
Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2009.
|Ranking Body||Rank||Ranking Scale
(best – worst possible)
|UN Human Development Index||136 (2014)||1 – 187|
|World Bank Rule of Law Index||17 (2012)||100 – 0|
|World Bank Voice & Accountability Index||19 (2012)||100 – 0|
|Transparency International||156 (2014)||1 – 177|
|Freedom House: Freedom in the World||Status: Not Free
Political Rights: 6
Civil Liberties: 5 (2015)
|Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
|Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
||41 (2015)||178 – 1|
International and Regional Human Rights Agreements
|Key International Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||Yes||19992|
|Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)||Yes||2004|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)||Yes||1992|
|Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)||No||--|
|International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)||Yes||1983|
|Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)||Yes||1992|
|Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women||No||2001|
|Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)||Yes||1992|
|International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)||Yes||2004|
|Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)||Yes||2007|
* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty
The Cambodian Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Assembly in Phnom Penh on 21 September 1993.
Relevant Constitutional provisions include:
Khmer citizens shall have the freedom of expression, press, publication and assembly. No one shall exercise this right to infringe upon the rights of others, to affect the good traditions of the society, to violate public law and order and national security. The regime of the media shall be determined by law.
Khmer citizens shall have the right to establish associations and political parties. These rights shall be determined by law. Khmer citizens may take part in mass organisations for the mutual benefit to protect national achievement and social order.
National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector
Relevant laws relating to civil society in Cambodia include:
- Law on Taxation (2004);
- Penal Code (new 2009 Code pending enactment);
- Civil Code (2007);
- Counter-terrorism Law (2007);
- Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO) (2015)
Legal personality: The Civil Code, adopted in 2007, recognizes registered NGOs as legal entities and makes them subject to its provisions. The LANGO now requires all associations, including informal groups, to register and thereby conferring legal entity status.
Registration: The LANGO outlines new burdensome registration requirements, but leaves the actual registration procedure to be determined by the Ministry of Interior through administrative orders or prakas. As of September 2015, these prakas have not been drafted. INGOs are also subjected to burdensome registration requirements under the LANGO, including signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government before undertaking any activities.. Under the newly passed LANGO, the Ministry of Interior has complete discretion over registering associations. Registration can be denied on the broad grounds of “endanger[ing]” the security, stability and public order or jeopardize the national security, national unity, cultures, tradition, and custom of the Cambodian national society.”
Criminal responsibility: Members of NGOs are subject to the Cambodia Penal Code. The 2007 Counter-terrorism Law has detailed provisions relating to the question of financing of and material assistance to terrorism. The new LANGO provides that associations and NGOs are subject to criminal punishments in accordance with the existing criminal law in Cambodia for offenses including jeopardizing national security and operating without registration.
Taxation: According to the 1997 Tax Law, NGOs do not pay taxes on their income, if they are organizations with either religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes. (Article 9 of the Tax law)
Financial transparency: NGOs are accountable to the public that they aim to serve, and to their donors through financial audits. To guard against financial mismanagement and corruption, the recently enacted Anti-corruption Law will be applicable to everyone, including public authorities, civil society actors and private enterprises. The new LANGO provides that domestic and foreign NGOs must annually report on activities and finances, and are subject to government audits.
Self-regulatory mechanism: NGOs in Cambodia have established a Voluntary Certification Scheme. To be certified by this system, NGOs subject themselves to a Code of Ethical Principles. The system is recognized at international and national levels as an effective way to build accountability and transparency.
1. The Ministry of Interior is reportedly drafting a law to protect state secrets. It would aim to protect “state secrets in order to ensure national secrecy is strictly protected.” However, the concern is that the drafting process has not been open and transparent.
2. International partners and the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) signed an agreement to draft the Freedom of Information Law in mid-2014. Pursuant to that agreement, drafting is to take approximately three years. CSOs are working to provide comments and help with the drafting.
3. The Council of Ministers approved the Telecommunications Law in October 2015, and it is expected to be adopted by the National Assembly by the end of 2015.
4. The government proposed laws to be enacted within the fifth mandate of its government (the fifth mandate refers to the period of 2013-2018). They were in the process of being "fast-tracked" to adoption, though this has not yet occurred. Among the laws were a Law on Trade Unions, a Law on Cybercrime, and a Law on Agricultural and Farmers' Land Management and Use. Various individuals and organizations commented on the draft laws, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights after his 11th visit to Cambodia in June 2014, noted that the draft laws contained some articles that potentially restrict freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and violate the Constitution. They also do not meet the standards of some international human right instruments and laws that Cambodia has signed. The drafting process for most of these laws has not been transparent or open for meaningful consultations, making it difficult for CSOs to provide substantial comments and input into the draft laws. However, CSOs in Cambodia have worked together to analyze the laws, to come up with a collective position, and to develop strategies for better communication and advocacy. As of September 2015, due to the concerted efforts of the CSO community, these laws remain in the drafting process. However, the Trade Union Law is expected to be placed before the National Assembly before the end of 2015
The LANGO provides the following definitions for NGOs and Associations:
1. A domestic association refers to a membership organization created under Cambodian law by natural persons and/or legal persons with the purposes of representing and protecting the interests of its members without making profits or gain for mutual distribution.
2. A domestic non-governmental organization refers to a membership non-governmental organization, including foundations, created under Cambodian law by natural persons and/or legal persons with the purpose of providing funds or services in one or many realms in order to serve the public interest without making profits or gain for mutual distribution.
3. A foreign association or foreign non-governmental organization refers to a legitimate organization created outside the country with the purpose of conducting activities to serve the public interest without making a profit.
Public Benefit Status
According to the 1997 Tax Law, NGOs with either religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes are exempt from taxation on their income. (Article 9, Tax law).
Barriers to Entry
Under the new LANGO, the legal framework in Cambodia includes at least three barriers to the formation of organizations.
First, registration for all NGOs and associations is required. Unregistered organizations can be closed down and face criminal sanctions. Despite assurances from the Ministry of Interior that the LANGO would not apply to community-based organizations (CBOs), some small groups have been barred from meeting on the grounds that they lack registration under the LANGO. For example, just days after the passage of the LANGO, officials in Kratie province demanded that a small group of families involved in land rights advocacy register with the Ministry of Interior or be “punished.”
Second, the LANGO still requires INGOs to conclude a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFA/IC). The current procedural requirements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFA/IC) for the registration of INGOs are complex and burdensome. Besides requiring an MOU, an INGO must receive a supporting letter from a line ministry as a prerequisite for processing the MoU or for renewing the MoU with MoFA/IC.
INGOs that support human rights and democracy find it hard to conclude the MoU and/or receive the supporting letter from the line ministry, as these INGOs are not working directly with any line ministry. The registration process also sometimes requires INGOs to make unofficial payments to the officials in order to get MoU approval in a timely manner. In addition, line ministry has sometimes required INGOs to have line ministry officials employed by the organization as a pre-requisite for the MoU supporting letter, though this practice might be rare. Some organizations also have had to pay a facilitation fee to fast track their MoU and line ministry officials have in some instances required organizations to employ line ministry officials as a pre-requisite for the MoU. It is unknown how prevalent these practices are.
Local NGOs that register with Ministry of Interior (MoI) are also subject to complex and lengthy procedures, pursuant to the LANGO. The process starts with securing approval on key documents from local authorities and submitting them to the MoI. Most of the applications do not meet the requirements for registration without assistance from MoI officials. The applicant may need to make revisions and/or wait for approval from one official or another. Reportedly, this process can be even more difficult if no payments are made to officials.
For local NGOs and associations, registration with the MoI requires the applicant organization to provide:
1. Application forms for registration, two (02) copies;
2. A letter stating the address of the central office of the domestic association or non-governmental organizations issued by the commune or Sangkat chief, one (01) copy;
3.Profiles of each founding members with a recent 4x6 size photograph, two (02) copies;
4. Statutes signed by the president of the domestic association or non-governmental organization, two (02) copies.
For INGOs, registration with the MoFA/IC requires the applicant organization to provide:
1. A letter of the director of a foreign association or non-governmental organization which has its permanent office in a foreign country, requesting to appoint its representative with the attachment of the profile of a person requested to be appointed, one (1) copy and the request to open a representative office, one (1) copy;
2. A letter stating the address of the representative office in the Kingdom of Cambodia issued by the Commune or Sangkat Chief, one (01) copy;
3. An operation permit for the foreign association or non-governmental organization issued by a foreign competent authority of the country of origin, one (1) copy;
4. A supporting letter of the projects of the foreign association or non-governmental organization issued by the public authorities of the Kingdom of Cambodia, one (1) copy;
5.A certifying letter declaring the budget for implementing the projects of the foreign association or non-governmental organization for at least six (06) months, issued by its permanent office in the foreign country, one (1) copy;
6. A pledging letter to provide all accounts of the foreign association or non-governmental organization in the banks in the Kingdom of Cambodia, one (01) copy.
INGOs are required to renew the MoU every 3 years.
Third, the legal framework does not provide procedural safeguards that ensure a professional, apolitical, uniform registration process. The Government has wide discretion to deny registration based on broad grounds. For a domestic organization, the Ministry of Interior can deny registration if an association’s purpose and goal is found to endanger security, public order, national unity, culture, and tradition, and custom of the Cambodian national society. No grounds for denial of registration are provided for INGOs. The LANGO provides a right to domestic NGOs to appeal a registration decision to the court, but no further details to exercise this right are provided.
Barriers to Operational Activity
Advance notification and approval: Regarding Local NGOs: The Ministry of Interior (MoI) has issued guidelines relating to activity notification. If local NGOs are conducting activity in a province other than where they are registered, then the local authority needs to be informed five days in advance. In some provinces the guidelines are interpreted as directives that mean that approval for activity is required by provincial authorities.
Regarding INGOs: Article 2 of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) requires INGOs “to carry out its humanitarian projects in other locations or provincial cities upon due approval of relevant governmental authorities based on government priorities.” Article 18 requires INGOs to work “in close consultation with counterpart government institutions and local authorities to implement the approved projects or programs.” In particular, INGOs must inform counterparts when assigning a consultant to work in the field or requesting visa extension for an expert to complete the job. It is unclear if the LANGO will affect these requirements.
Political activity: Currently NGOs and INGOS are required “to refrain from activity in support of Political Parties.” There is concern that political activity will be subject to broader restrictions under any new legislation.
Reporting requirements: MoUs with line ministries, MoI, and MoFA/IC, and the CDC require CSOs to provide both regular (quarterly and annual) reports on their finance and progress. The varying formats and requirements and frequencies of reporting pose a formidable challenge to CSOs. Small local NGOs may not be able to produce reports meeting these requirements. It is difficult for NGOs that are working on sensitive issues, such as human rights violations, human trafficking, and legal aid, to report the status of these cases during the investigation process, which often requires confidentiality and privacy.
Government harassment: There is growing concern that the RCG is increasingly applying pressure and intimidation on people in the communities NGOs work with and also directly on NGOs and their staff. This is particularly evident where NGOs are conducting activities relating to the protection of land rights of the poorest communities in urban and rural areas, natural resources management, and the promotion of the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. In such spheres of activity, the Government has acted arbitrarily to restrict the freedom of movement and the freedom of assembly and expression.
Examples of state action include:
1. Permission needed for community members to travel (even between villages);
2. Meetings monitored by police and state authorities;
3. An increase in the frequency of arrests, charges and detention of NGO representatives and community members;
4. Threats against communities that engage with NGOs;
5. Photographing meeting participants;
6. Requesting names/contacts of meeting participants; and
7. Police disturbances of activities in meetings.
Barriers to Speech / Advocacy
There are a number of legal avenues used by the courts to curtail the freedom of expression in the country, namely through charges of defamation, disinformation and incitement. [These legal avenues are found within the UNTAC Code (Provisions relating to the Judiciary and Criminal Law and Procedure Applicable in Cambodia during the Transitional Period).] According to one NGO representative: “The ruling party has embarked on a campaign to crack down on freedom of expression and suppress the parliamentary opposition, the news media, the legal profession and, to some extent, NGOs. At the center of the campaign is the government’s misuse of the courts to file unjustified criminal charges against its critics.” 
In addition, the new LANGO requires political neutrality of all CSOs; and CSOs risk being denied registration or being shut down if they are found to jeopardize national security, national security, national unity, cultures, tradition, and custom of the Cambodian national society.
According to an October 2009 statement made by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia to the Human Rights Council, the defamation laws of Cambodia have gone beyond what is a permitted level of restriction on freedom of expression under the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Cambodia is a party. A series of defamation and disinformation suits were brought primarily by high-ranking government officials against opposition journalists and editors, opposition Parliamentarians and human rights defenders in 2009.
The government also passed election laws, which were signed by the Prime Minister in March 2015. According to the laws, there is a ban on CSOs that "insult" or show bias during the campaign period, fines for election observers who "disturb" the polls, and deportation for foreigners if they are found to be campaigning for a party.
 Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Hearing on Cambodia, September 10, 2009.Testimony by Dr. Chhiv Kek Pung, President & Founder, Cambodian League for the Promotion & Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO).
Barriers to International Contact
There are no legal barriers limiting international contact or communication. However, the case of Transparency International Cambodia (TIC) is indicative of government stifling international NGO operations. The TIC and the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) signed an MoU to implement some key activities in fighting against corruption after September 2012. During the election process in July 2013, TIC was actively engaged in election monitoring and providing comments for reform on issues such as the national election committee and the ACU. However, the Executive Director of TIC was not allowed to participate in a joint event organized by TIC andthe ACU in September 2013 as he was accused of being "a politician."
Barriers to Resources
There are no explicit legal restrictions inhibiting either domestic or foreign funding. In terms of spending, there is a guideline limiting the amount spent for administration to a maximum of 25% of funding. However, the final version of the Development Cooperation and Partnership Strategy (DCPS) 2014-2018 encourages all funding, especially Official Development Aid, to be managed and channeled through the Council for Development of Cambodia (CDC). The DCPS therefore can restrict CSOs’ ability to receive direct funding from bilateral and multilateral donors.
Barriers to Assembly
As a general rule, the right to freedom of assembly in Cambodia is governed by the Law on Peaceful Demonstrations (LPD), which was adopted by the National Assembly and promulgated in late 2009. In December 2010, the Ministry of Interior adopted an Implementation Guide (IG) to be used as a basic tool to assist the authorities and citizens in respecting and complying with the LPD. While many CSOs have become aware of the LPD and IG through regional trainings, the authorities dealing with various demonstrations have not received such extensive training and are therefore have lower awareness of the LPD and IG.
An example of the lack of awareness and implementation of the LPD and other good practices related to freedom of assembly occurred on January 3, 2014, when Cambodian police fired on garment workers protesting for a higher minimum wage, killing at least three people and injuring several others. An activist from the local human rights group Adhoc said as many as 10 of the protesters were badly injured. On January 4, 2014, the Cambodian authorities proceeded to ban all public gatherings and protests “until security and public order has been restored.”
Several impediments also arise under the LPD:
Vague Definition. Article 2 of the LPD states that its purpose is to assure the freedom of expression of Khmer citizens through peaceful assembly, but also states that “this right shall not be used abusively affecting the rights, freedoms and honor of others, good customs of the national society, public order and national security.” The law therefore contains terms that could be interpreted arbitrarily, such as “honor of others.”
Right available to citizens only. Article 41 of the Cambodian Constitution extends the right to assembly only to Khmer citizens. The LPD is based on the same limited assumption, assuring the freedom of expression through peaceful assembly only to “Khmer citizens.” (Article 2, LPD).
Advance Notification. To hold an “ordinary” demonstration, the organizers must notify the Provincial Governor at least five days in advance. Demonstrations of fewer than 200 people (i.e., not an “ordinary” demonstration) require 12 hours notice. If a planned demonstration will have less than 200 attendees, it may take place in one of the country’s designated “freedom parks.” Competent municipal or provincial territorial authorities must examine and respond within a maximum period of three working days from the date the notification letter was submitted. If the competent municipal or provincial territorial authorities fail to respond within three days, then “that implies that the competent municipal or provincial territorial authorities have approved” the assembly. (Article 10)
During the July 2013 general elections and post-election period, CSO requests for holding assemblies were restricted to allow only a limited number of participants in demonstrations/rallies. In July 2015, authorities in Phnom Penh arrested and released six people dressed in prison uniforms and chained together for protesting outside the National Assembly against the LANGO, reportedly on the grounds that they did not ask for permission to protest.
Time, Place and Manner Restrictions. The LPD explicitly prohibits demonstrations on national holidays, including: the King’s birthday, Coronation day, Water Festival, National Independence day, Khmer New Year day and Pchum Ben day. In addition, all demonstrations must occur between 6:00am and 6:00pm (Article 14). Enforcement.
Enforcement: Although the LPD Implementation Guide expressly instructs authorities to “show absolute patience with demonstrations,” there are in fact frequent instances of the authorities’ misapplying the Demonstration Law and breaking up peaceful demonstrations with excessive force. This is especially true in relation to demonstrations of a political nature. For example, on January 3, 2014, Cambodian police fired on garment workers protesting for a higher minimum wage, killing at least three people and injuring several others.
In addition, in December 2013, the government warned Mr. Rong Chhun and his colleagues in labor unions and teachers' associations that they will be arrested or jailed if they continue to hold demonstrations. In January 2014, there were then several bloody and brutal crackdowns against the protestors who were demonstrating for better payment and justice. At least four people were shot to death, about 39 people injured, and 23 people arrested and detained in prison far from Phnom Penh. The government warned people to not gather together more than 10 people and/or carry out further demonstrations.
Three orders were sent to opposition political leaders (Mr. Sam Raingsey and Mr. Kim Sokha) and union leader (Mr. Rong Chhun), had to appear in court on January 14, 2014. CSOs have issued a number of statements (Khmer) to condemn the government shootings and toadvocate for proportionate solutions for the protests and other related issues.
Criminal Penalties: Article 495 of the Criminal Code, which provides penalties for disturbances of social and national security, can be applied to people engaged in demonstrations. In addition, people who protest against the implementation of a court decision that they regard as unjust may be open to accusations of incitement to obstruct a public official (Articles 505 and 506).
See also: The Delusion Of Progress: Cambodia’s Legislative Assault On Freedom Of Expression.
|UN Universal Periodic Review Reports||The Human Rights Council convened in June 2014 for its 26th session, at which it formally adopted the Outcome Report of Cambodia's UPR. At the Council's meeting, the government decided to accept 163 recommendations and to take note of the 42 remaining recommendations.|
|Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs|
|USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes||
|U.S. State Department||2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Cambodia
Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports, 2010: Cambodia
|Fragile States Index Reports||Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 2015|
|IMF Country Reports||Cambodia and the IMF|
|International Commission of Jurists||Not available|
|International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library||Not available|
As of November 2015, CCC and some other major CSOs are expected to meet soon with the Minister of Interior to discuss implementation guidelines for the new LANGO.
A series of press conferences were organized during the spring and summer of 2015, with more than 300 attendants of local and international NGOs, calling the government to reject the LANGO in its current form, and conduct a broad-based, meaningful and transparent dialogue on the LANGO, as well as future legislation. An online campaign called Stop and Consult was formed to convey these messages publicly.
On February 24, 2015, CSOs convened a consultative Meeting on "Promoting more effective partnership between INGOs and other CSOs", building directly on the findings of Oxfam's Discussion Paper: "The Future Role of INGO in Cambodia". The purpose of this consultation was to build a common understanding on the role of CSOs, and especially the future role of international organizations in Cambodia, and to craft suggestions for advancing the development of Cambodia from a civil society perspective.
From October 6-10, 2014 there was an International solidarity visit from different stakeholders such as Beyond 2015, International Federation for national NGO Platform (IFP), CIVICUS, Global Call for Actions Against Poverty (CGAP), Forum Asia, and Asian Democracy Network (ADN) and South East Asia Coalition for Advocacy (SEACA). They met with different stakeholders, including CSO leaders, government officials, UN agencies, and other development partners, to learn and to advocate for civic space and enabling environment for CSOs in Cambodia.
Cambodian CSO leaders visited Brussels, Belgium and Germany from October 5-12, 2014 to meet those two countries' parliaments and other key stakeholders to advocate for their support for CSO space.
Minister Insists Community-Based Groups Are Exempt From NGO Law (September 2015)
The Interior Ministry has reiterated its claims that a new law requiring NGOs and associations to register with the government does not apply to small community-based groups, despite recent efforts by police to apply the legislation to a group of families in Kratie province. In a letter, Interior Minister Sar Kheng assured those critics that the government's assurances about small groups were honest. "In accordance with Article 4 of this law, its scope doesn't cover community-based organizations that do not have enough [structure] to comply with Article 6 and Article 7 of this law," the minister wrote, referring to provisions on filing statutes, leadership biographies and other paperwork.
King Signs Law on NGOs (August 2015)
The much-disputed Law on Associations and Non-governmental Organisations (LANGO) has passed its final, and almost entirely ceremonial hurdle, as King Norodom Sihamoni yesterday signed a Royal Proclamation passing the legislation into law. The signing came a day after the law was approved by the Constitutional Council, which rejected a challenge by the opposition that the legislation breached the Kingdom's charter. According to government spokesman Phay Siphan, the law will now be forwarded to the Council of Ministers and the country's ministries in order to be put into effect. "After the King signed off on the law, it will take effect in 10 days in Phnom Penh and in 20 days in the provinces," he said yesterday.
Cambodia Senate OKs Controversial NGO Laws (July 2015)
Cambodia's Senate passed a controversial law to regulate the country's nonprofit sector as hundreds of people protested. Opponents say the law marks a deliberate effort by the government to clamp down on groups that have been criticizing the ruling party on an array of issues, from politics to land-grabbing to corruption.
King Sihamoni Approves Two New Election Laws (March 2015)
King Norodom Sihamoni signed off on the country's two new election laws last week in an unpublicized action that entered the controversial pieces of legislation into legal force, an opposition lawmaker said. "The two laws were signed by the King on March 26, and they both entered into force on the day that the King signed off on the laws," spokesman Yem Ponhearith said. The opposition spokesman also said the laws, which have been labeled as unconstitutional by some civil society groups due to provisions restricting expression during election campaigns, were examined by the Constitutional Council and approved without any amendments.
NGO Slam Cambodia's Electoral Reform Deal' (March 2015)
Cambodian political commentators and a civil society group have criticized a deal between the ruling and opposition parties which finalized a draft national electoral reform law, as being nontransparent and only serving the two parties themselves. Minister of the Interior and Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, who is a member of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), met with Sam Rainsy, president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), for four hours at the National Assembly (parliament) to hammer out the remaining points of disagreement between the parties’ working groups over the draft electoral reform law.The parties did not publicly release complete details of the negotiations or the draft law. Social researcher and political commentator Kem Ley criticized the deal, saying the new draft election law only benefited the two main parties, and blamed the two politicians for concealing information about their discussions. “They are treating national interest as their own,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.
'Controversial Cybercrime Law 'Scrapped' (December 2014)
Amid ramped-up efforts by the government to monitor and control the Internet, and plans to install surveillance equipment on the networks of mobile phone and Internet providers, the Council of Ministers has "scrapped" a controversial draft cybercrime law for the time being. The government's decision to set aside the draft cybercrime law, however, comes as it is quickly ramping up efforts to control the Internet. A government directive dated October 7 ordered 12 mobile and Internet providers in the country to allow Interior Ministry officials to inspect their networks, billing records and data logs.
'Cyber War Team' to Monitor Web (November 2014)
The Council of Ministers' Press and Quick Reaction Unit has created a "Cyber War Team" to monitor and collect information from Facebook and other websites in order to "protect the government's stance and prestige," according to a proclamation published in the Royal Gazette. The document, signed by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and published on October 15, says that the Cyber War Team (CWT) will monitor and diffuse information from "websites, Facebook, Twitter, Google-plus, blogs, YouTube and other media outlets." The creation of the CWT comes as NGOs and observers continue to call attention to the country's draft law, which was leaked to the media in April 2014 and found to have sections that were directly lifted from the European Convention on Cybercrime. One section that was not copied, however, and which has drawn much criticism, is Article 28, which allows for the punishment of individuals who publish content online that slanders or undermines the integrity of the government or government agencies at any level.
Lawmakers Call for Talks Over Lor Peang Land (October 2014)
The National Assembly's Human Rights Committee has laid out its plan to mediate negations to settle a more than decade-long land dispute between villagers and a powerful development company in Kompong Chhnang province's Lor Peang village. The bipartisan committee announced early this month that it would intervene to settle the conflict over land that was purchased in 2002 by KDC International, a company owned by Chea Kheng, the wife of Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem. CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said Friday that the Human Rights Committee, which he chairs, will attempt to resolve the dispute in three stages, first with the 17 families who have remained defiant since 2007, when KDC first started preventing them from farming the land that they have depended on for decades.
Cambodian Authorities Drafting New Laws to Curtail Freedom (October 2014)
The Cambodian government plans to tighten Internet censorship, regulate civil society organizations and effectively institutionalize land seizures as part of five laws being drafted, according to a coalition of international groups. The laws, which cover farmland, cybercrime, telecommunications, nongovernmental organizations and trade unions, are being drafted by government ministries. The proposed legislation, in addition to three judicial laws passed earlier this year that undermined the independence of courts, would further restrict free speech and other basic rights. "This is not a patchwork of legislation," said Kwak No-hyun of Forum Asia, a network of human rights NGOs, in a joint statement issued by the coalition. "If implemented in their current form, these eight laws will restrict the space for dissenting voices and criminalize demands for justice."
About 40 Injured at Cambodia Opposition Protest (July 2014)
Opposition demonstrators disarmed Cambodian security forces and beat them with batons and flag poles in a confrontation that came two weeks before the anniversary of the disputed general election last year that led to a bitter political deadlock. Officials said at least 40 people were injured, mostly security forces. Police arrested three lawmakers from the political party that led the protest to demand that Phnom Penh's Freedom Park be reopened to the public. Authorities banned public demonstrations and closed the park in January after a spasm of political violence.
Old problems persist in new NGO draft law (May 2014)
The latest version of the government's draft law on NGOs, which was approved by the Council of Ministers in January, is identical to an earlier version made available to civil society in 2011, with several outstanding concerns still intact, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) said. Working from a copy provided by the government late last month, CCHR found that the draft law – despite having addressed many of civil society's concerns – was likely to be passed as is, still with several troubling articles, including vague language that "could not be much worse for foreign NGOs and associations".
Bans Violate Election Law Right to Campaign, Comfrel Says (May 2014)
Bans issued by the municipality and Interior Ministry on assemblies in Phnom Penh's Freedom Park are not only unconstitutional, but also in violation of the Election Law, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) said in a report. The report cites an April 30 notice sent by City Hall, which said the National Election Committee (NEC) should halt campaigns for the May 18 election that are carried out along the road or “oppose the law.” “The intervention letter from Phnom Penh City Hall is without a legal basis,” Comfrel's report says.
“Participation, transparency and accountability are key in law-making” (April 2014)
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Surya P. Subedi, expressed concern that the Cambodian National Assembly held its second session without the opposition MPs taking up their seat, and urged the legislature to upkeep the key principles of any law-making process: transparency, accountability and participation. "I have been following closely the situation in Cambodia where restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms continue, as a direct consequence of the unresolved political situation arising from the 2013 general election, the results of which continue to be contested," said Subedi.
United Nations Envoy Visits After Protest Deaths (February 2014)
The U.N. special rapporteur on the freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Maina Kiai, began a three-day unofficial visit to Cambodia, just one month after military police shot dead five protesters in Phnom Penh and the government imposed a ban on public gatherings. Mr. Kiai, a Kenyan lawyer, is tasked with monitoring and reporting on people's rights to assembly and will meet with union leaders and NGO representatives during his visit, which was organized by the Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development.
Cambodia Steps Up Crackdown on Dissent With Ban on Assembly (January 2014)
Seeking to quash one of the most serious challenges to the nearly 30-year rule of the country's authoritarian leader, the Cambodian authorities have banned all public gatherings and summoned two opposition leaders for police questioning. After months of inaction in the face of growing public dissent to his rule, Prime Minister Hun Sen appeared to signal that he was entering a more aggressive posture toward his critics. The crackdown, including the clearing of protesters from a public square on Saturday, came after a clash on Friday between protesting garment workers and the Cambodian police that left at least four demonstrators dead. The workers have been at the forefront of growing protests against Mr. Hun Sen's government.
Three dead in Cambodia as police fire on protesters (January 2014)
Cambodian police fired on garment workers protesting for a higher minimum wage, killing at least three people and injuring several others, police say. Phnom Penh deputy police commissioner Chuon Narin said the three were killed and two others wounded when police shot at several hundred workers blocking a road south of the capital. He said the protesters had burnt tires and thrown objects at police. An activist from the local human rights group Adhoc said as many as 10 of the protesters were badly injured. Workers at most of the country's more than 500 garment factories are currently on strike, demanding a doubling of their minimum wage to $160 (117 euros) a month. The government is offering $100.
Government Pushes Ahead With NGO Law (December 2013)
After nearly two years of silence on its draft NGO Law, the Ministry of Interior said it was aiming to have the highly contentious piece of legislation ready for the Council of Ministers early in 2014 and voted on by July. NGOs fear the government will use the bill's vague wording to clamp down on groups it perceives to be too critical of the ruling CPP, and few draft laws have attracted as much international criticism in recent years. Cambodian Officials Ask Opposition to Downsize Election Protest Rallies
Cambodian Officials Ask Opposition to Downsize Election Protest Rall
ies (September 2013)
Officials in Cambodia’s capital ordered the country’s main opposition party to scale back plans for mass demonstrations aimed at backing demands for an independent probe into election fraud charges. The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), led by Sam Rainsy, has vowed to hold a 20,000-strong protest in Phnom Penh for three consecutive days beginning September 15 after the authorities rejected calls to investigate irregularities in the July 28 elections. The country’s National Election Committee (NEC), which supervised the polls, confirmed over the weekend that Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had won the hotly-contested vote, prompting warnings from the opposition that it would rally against the result.
Resistance and Solidarity: Cambodian CSOs confront a repressive draft law on associations and NGOs (May 2013)
At the end of December 2011, in a surprise move, Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen, agreed to delay by two years the adoption of a controversial proposed law governing the activities of civil society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Cambodian civil society organizations (CSOs) welcomed the commitment by the Prime Minister to give more time for the government and Cambodian civil society community to come to an agreement on outstanding issues in the fourth version of this draft law, published by the government a few weeks earlier. In 2013, the draft law remains pending, though other obstacles in the CSO legal framework remain.
Human Rights Group Shortlists Sonando for Award (January 2013)
A Dublin-based human rights group has named jailed Beehive Radio station owner Mam Sonando one of a half-dozen finalists from around the world for its annual award for rights defenders. Mr. Sonando, who owns one of the country’s few independent radio stations and heads an NGO that teaches rural communities about their human and voting rights, was convicted of fomenting a rural secessionist movement in November and sentenced to 20 years in jail. Dozens of local and international rights groups have denounced the conviction—after a show trial that offered no evidence linking Mr. Sonando to the alleged insurrection—as a political move to silence a popular government critic.
Call for Cambodia to respect freedom of assembly ahead of ASEAN Summit (November 2012)
FIDH calls on Cambodia to preempt disrupting civil society events and restricting freedom of expression and assembly ahead of ASEAN Summit. Read the Statement here.
Obama should publicly denounce rights abuses (November 2012)
US President Barack Obama should publicly express grave concern about Cambodia’s long deteriorating human rights situation while in Phnom Penh for the US-ASEAN and East Asia summits on November 19 and 20, 2012, Human Rights Watch said today. Hun Sen, Asia’s longest serving head of government, has ruled Cambodia for over 27 years and has publicly vowed to remain in power for another 30.
UN labour agency names five countries where ‘serious and urgent’ labour-rights cases need attention (November 2012)
A key rights committee of the United Nations labour agency identified five countries where it says worker-rights violations – some involving murder – represent the “most serious and urgent cases” among 32 countries examined at its meeting. Argentina, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Fiji and Peru were singled out by the Committee on Freedom of Association of the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) after Committee members reviewed cases involving rights to organize, negotiate through collective bargaining and engage in social dialogue.
Cambodian NGO workers, villagers face intimidation (November 2012)
During a mission to the provinces to collect information regarding land conflicts, the Land Reform Project Team of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights ("CCHR"), was faced with interference and disruption to its work in Thlao Village, Banteay Chhmar Commune, Thma Pouk District, Banteay Mean Chey Province on 29, 30 and 31 October 2012. The disruption of the work of NGOs is a growing trend and amounts to the violation of freedoms of expression, information, assembly and association, all of which must be upheld under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Cambodia in 1992, and also protected under the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Cambodia disrupting civil society events and restricting freedom of assembly ahead of ASEAN Summit (November 2012)
Civil society organizations strongly urge the Cambodian authorities to immediately end the ongoing intimidation, threats and harassment of organizers, venue owners and participants involved in civil society events in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh ahead of the 21st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and the 7th East Asia Summit.
Cancel convictions of critics and protesters (October 2012)
Cambodia’s donors, including the United States, European Union, Japan, and the United Nations, should insist on the immediate release of prominent critic of the government Mom Sonando and other activists convicted on trumped-up charges. On October 1, 2012, a Phnom Penh criminal court sentenced Sonando to 20 years in prison on trumped up charges of participating in a purported “secession” movement, while three local activists were sentenced to terms of 15 to 30 years and three others to terms of up to 5 years.
“A Robust Civil Society is Necessary for Cambodia’s Advancement” (September 2012)
Read the Statement that a member of the US Delegation to the UN Human Rights Council, Eric N. Richardson, made at the 21st session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
NGOs push donors on rights (September 2012)
More than 100 NGOs gathered in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh calling on donor countries to make aid conditional on government reforms for a more transparent electoral process and efficient judicial system.
Activists detained on dubious charges (September 2012)
Yorm Bopha and Tim Sakmony were arrested on September 4 and 5, respectively, on dubious charges. Yorm Bopha, for example, long prominent in protests against forced evictions of residents from the Boeung Kak area of Phnom Penh, was detained for allegedly assaulting a person who was suspected of stealing. In view of the Cambodian authorities’ established record of abuse of the law and misuse of the courts to persecute political opponents, social activists and human rights defenders for their legitimate exercise of basic human rights, CSOs are concerned that the actions against Bopha and Sakmony were very likely motivated by their involvement in protests and campaigns on behalf of the land and housing rights of local communities.
Radio station owner and NGO leader is prisoner of conscience (July 2012)
Mam Sonando, aged 71, was arrested at his home in Phnom Penh on July 15. He was charged with offences against the state and, if convicted, faces a long prison sentence. Mam Sonando owns one of Cambodia’s few independent radio stations, Beehive Radio. He is also the head of a popular NGO that promotes human rights and democracy, the Association of Democrats. The charges against Mam Sonando stem from a speech the Prime Minister delivered on June 26 accusing the radio station and members of the Association of Democrats of being behind a plot for a village in Kratie province to secede from Cambodia and become an independent state. The Cambodian authorities used this as a pretext for the violent eviction in mid-May of around 1,000 families living in that village, during which the security forces shot dead a 14-year-old girl. The real reasons for Mam Sonando’s arrest seem to be the popularity of the Association of Democrats and his radio station.
U.S. Secretary of State Clinton prods Cambodia on jailed protestors (June 2012)
In her talks with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in Washington on Tuesday, Secretary of State Clinton said the United States was concerned about the Cambodian government's handling of the land protests which led to the jailing of 13 women for between one year and two and a half years. The protests were over a longstanding dispute between tens of thousands of residents of capital Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake district who were evicted from their homes, or are in risk of losing them, and developers looking to turn the area into a luxury residential and shopping center. The women had been jailed for disputing authority and trespassing on the development site.
Cambodian government sparks outrage by picking NGO representatives for ASEAN Summit (March 2012)
The Cambodian government chose representatives from two NGOs to send to the annual meeting between civil society groups and regional leaders at the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh in April. However, most Cambodian NGOs believe that the selection process was unfair and biased, and have stated that the government has prevented mainstream organizations and critical voices from being heard on an international stage. They claim that the organizations nominated by the government are obscure and unheard of in civil society circles and that the two organizations were selected because they are likely to be supportive of government views. As it turns out, the two selected NGOs were handpicked by the government seven months before the “open vote” to select the Cambodian NGO representatives took place in March.
Cambodia’s draft law on NGOs deserves further review – UN expert (September 2011)
Cambodian Minister’s letter proposes crackdown on NGOs (September 2011)
Groups urge UN to mull funding Cambodia NGO law (September 2011)
International experts add to worries on NGO law (August 2011)
Silencing Cambodia's honest brokers (August 2011)
Civic groups warned to ‘readjust’ their work (August 2011)
‘Worrisome’ NGO law moves to council for approval (August 2011)
Draft of NGO law withheld (June 2011)
Evictions, NGO Law High Among Donor Concerns (April 2011)
Groups Unite To Push Changes to NGO Law (April 2011)
NGOs condemn new Cambodia law (April 2011)
Government Officials Defend Need for NGO Law (March 2011)
Criticism is not a crime, UN tells Cambodia (February 2011)
Opposition Party Wary of Revamped NGO Law (February 2011)
Cambodia/Thailand: Border dispute displaces up to 30,000 (February 2011)
Ministry Accepts Many NGO Changes to Draft Law (January 2011)
The foregoing information was prepared by ICNL's local partner in Cambodia.
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