The land of heroes
Our heroes
Our land
Cambodia Kingdom

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cambodia's Bill to Limit NGOs Threatening Land Rights

If Cambodia passes a law to regulate NGO activity, what influence will it have on the work of land rights activists?

The Cambodian government is on its way to passing a law that critics say threatens the country's lively civil society groups and NGOs.

The third draft of the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (LANGO) would more tightly control the eligibility of civil society organisations and how they are run.

Even before the law's passage, the government seems to be already be exercising what it aims to accomplish.

The Al Jazeera's stream asks is civil society development in Cambodia at a crossroads?

This is the case with NGOs supporting land rights protesters who have spoken out against the proposed law, saying that it would give the government too much authority over their work.

"If the law is passed in its current form, everyone will lose out, from civil society to investors with an eye on Cambodia, but, above all, the Cambodian people in whose name NGOs and associations work," said Virak Ou, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

LANGO requires all NGOs to register with the government but does not include an appeals process for denied applications. Without a guarantee of objectivity or an appeals process, some NGOs fear that they will be unjustly shut down.

"Ultimately," Ou said, "the fear is that the law may be used as a legislative weapon to stifle grassroots democracy and freedom of expression and association in Cambodia, in violation of the Constitution and the principle of the rule of law."

Some of these groups have been issued warnings and one organization was even suspended for five months.

Land evictions are a controversial topic in Cambodia, where many construction and economic developments are taking place. In Southeast Asia, Cambodia is seen as a model of development thanks to foreign investment from China and South Korea.

The Cambodian organisation, Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), which supported land rights protesters, received a government letter to suspend its activities on ambiguous terms.

In a joint statement, 130 NGOs claimed the suspension lacked legal justification. They believe the government's move was a symbol of increased efforts to block NGO activity so that land development projects of private and foreign companies can go ahead with greater ease.

NGOs play an integral role in educating civil society of their rights. As Cambodia launches more controversial development programs, land rights disputes and forced evictions are on the rise. In the video above we discuss the issue including how human rights NGOs are working with citizens to launch campaigns to remain on their land and to protect their livelihood.

No comments: