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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Laos, Cambodia to strengthen relations

Dec 22, 2011 (Vientiane Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- VIENTIANE (VIENTIANE TIMES/ANN) -- The ruling parties of Laos and Cambodia signed an agreement in Vientiane on Wednesday to reaffirm their commitment to develop their relations for the benefit of the people of the two nations.

The agreement was reached during an official working visit to Laos by a high-level delegation from the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) from December 20-23.

Party Politburo Member and President of the Inspection Committee of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP) Central Committee, Dr Bounthong Chitmany, representing the Party Central Committee signed the agreement with the CPP Standing Committee's Sim Ka.

Sim Ka is leading the high-level delegation from the CPP during the visit to Laos and in talks with LPRP leaders.

During the meeting, the two sides reported on the general situation in their respective countries and on Party activities in recent years.

They also discussed regional and international issues of mutual interest before expressing their shared appreciation of the relations between the two Parties.

The two sides reaffirmed they would strengthen their relations for the benefit of the two parties, nations and people of Laos and Cambodia and to contribute to international peace, friendship and cooperation.

On the same day, the Cambodian delegation called on LPRP Politburo member and National Assembly President Pany Yathortou.

Pany said she appreciated Sim Ka's visit, which would contribute to consolidating the cooperative relations between Laos and Cambodia.

Sim Ka expressed his pleasure at the visit to Laos, to witness the progressive development of Laos under the leadership of the LPRP.

He appreciated the relations between the LPRP and the CPP and was confident that the two parties would continue to share their experiences in various fields for the mutual benefit of their two countries.

The Cambodian delegation will also visit sites of historical and cultural interest in Vientiane and Vientiane province.
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'Cambodia to build bigger roles for ASEAN Secretariat, Secretary General'

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua) - Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday afternoon that as the 2012's ASEAN chair, the country would empower bigger and stronger roles for the Secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its secretary general.

The premier's remarks were made during a meeting with the visiting ASEAN's Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan at the Peace Palace.

He said the ASEAN Secretariat is the ASEAN's core and is permanently in charge of ASEAN's affairs, whilst each member country is just rotating chair, so Cambodia wants ASEAN Secretariat and its Secretary General to have bigger and stronger roles for the interests of the whole ASEAN.

The premier advised Surin to prepare documents relevant to the roles of ASEAN Secretariat and its Secretary General for Cambodia when it is the chair next year in order to discuss and decide to empower them bigger and stronger roles.

Surin said the ASEAN Secretariat would try all its best to help Cambodia chair ASEAN successfully next year and added that all ASEAN members and dialogue partners have expressed their supports for Cambodia as the rotating ASEAN chair in 2012 and are ready to help the country by all means.

Surin arrived here on Dec. 21 for a 3-day visit to discuss Cambodia's chairmanship of ASEAN in 2012.
Earlier in the day, he held talks with Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
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Cambodia: Revise or Abandon Draft NGO Law - Donors Should Insist on Protections for Civil Society

For immediate release

Cambodia: Revise or Abandon Draft NGO Law
Donors Should Insist on Protections for Civil Society

(Bangkok, December 22, 2011) – Donors, who provide approximately half of Cambodia’s national budget, should make clear to the Cambodian government that the fourth draft of the Law on Associations and NGOs (LANGO) must be revised to protect civil society or be withdrawn, a group of concerned international human rights organizations said today. Any revisions should involve meaningful consultation with civil society organizations and aim to support their activities instead of creating a legal framework allowing for arbitrary closure of organizations or the denial of registration.

The groups involved are Human Rights Watch, Global Witness, Freedom House, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Article 19, Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), Civil Rights Defenders, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, Centre for Law and Democracy, Protection International, and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint program of the International Federation for Human Rights - FIDH, and the World Organisation Against Torture - OMCT).

“The Cambodian government is pressing forward with a draft law that grants it broad authority to make arbitrary decisions about which groups can operate and which cannot,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Civil society delivers essential services and acts as a constructive watchdog over government and private sector activities. This law is hardly the sort of ‘reform’ that will benefit Cambodian citizens. Donors should say no to this farce.”

The 4th draft of the LANGO contains vague and unspecified terms that will enable the government to target critics by ordering their closure or denying them registration, the groups said. These terms should be clarified, and new and unnecessary barriers to the registration and operations of international NGOs should be eliminated. Furthermore, protections should be established to ensure that if an organization decides not to register, it is not denied legal status and therefore rendered incapacitated. Provisions placing burdensome notification requirements on community-based organizations should be removed.

Governments have a legitimate regulatory interest in providing benefits to organizations that become legal entities and preventing criminal activity. But such regulations cannot be used as a cover to undermine rights to freedom of association, expression and assembly, which are protected under the Cambodian constitution and international treaties to which Cambodia is a party.

The Cambodian context is critical for understanding the risk to Cambodia’s civil society should the current draft of LANGO pass, the groups said. Cambodian governance is still missing the checks and balances found in functioning democracies that limit arbitrary action by the executive branch of government. Government officials who react most harshly to NGO criticisms frequently are found to have a financial stake in the case at hand. Therefore, to argue that Cambodia should have a specific law on NGOs simply because other countries have one ignores the Cambodian government’s increasing actions to constrict public space for pluralistic debate and peaceful expression of views.

The fourth draft of LANGO fails to establish clear provisions to justify denial of registration to associations or NGOs. It violates Cambodia’s obligations under international law, such as under article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cambodia is party. LANGO also fails to include clear and objective standards in articles 28 and 29 concerning suspension or termination of registration. Article 28 provides that domestic organizations can be “dissolved by court decisions” but no further details are given, leaving matters to the discretion of a judiciary where political interference is common.

There are no provisions for appealing a suspension or termination and the law lacks procedural safeguards such as advance notice of regulatory action, opportunities to resolve problems prior to termination or suspension, or limiting termination to a sanction of last resort. Such provisions are extremely worrisome given the political and governance context of Cambodia, which is characterized by endemic corruption, arbitrary application of punitive legislation and an absence of judicial independence, the groups said. The Ministry of Interior’s suspension in August of the NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) is a harbinger of the sudden, unilateral, and non-transparent actions this law will legitimize. The government has still failed to adequately indicate the legal basis for STT’s suspension.

“Many officials in the Cambodian government have never accepted that civil society should operate independently or criticize their decisions,” said Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, the director of Southeast Asia Program at Freedom House. “A major success of the UNTAC peacekeeping mission 20 years ago was to create this space for civil society. Now it is up to donors to protect it and ensure NGOs can continue to independently provide their essential services to Cambodians.”

Despite promises by the Cambodian government to eliminate mandatory registration, the fourth draft makes legal status dependent on registration, and thus essentially maintains the requirement. The fourth draft represents a bait-and-switch by removing the mandatory clause but then requiring an organization to register if it wants to obtain legal status. Without legal status, it is unclear under the draft law whether an association or NGO will be able to operate in Cambodia since that status is required to enter into legal contracts, open bank accounts, hire staff, import materials, and collaborate with partners “for implementing aid projects according to the existing laws.”

This arrangement effectively undermines respect for the right to freedom of association and cynically presents local associations and NGOs with the choice of either registering or facing constant bureaucratic roadblocks in their work. Although community-based organizations will no longer have to register, under article 5 of the draft law they will be required to provide prior written notice to local authorities who could be easily used to restrict their work.

The groups also expressed serious concerns that this fourth draft specifically targets international NGOs (INGOs) and would severely hamper both their projects and their advocacy efforts to promote good governance and development approaches that respect human rights. Article 17 of the draft law sets out an overly broad and vague standard that will allow the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) to use wide discretion in dealing with INGOs, including terminating a group’s registration if the ministry decides that the INGO has conducted activities that “jeopardize peace, stability and public order…or harm the national security, national unity, culture, customs and traditions of the Cambodian national society.” Moreover, the Memoranda of Understanding that INGOs would have to negotiate with ministry is valid for only three years, resulting in a de facto re-registration process. INGOs also will have no right to appeal any termination of their registration.

“This latest version of the law can be arbitrarily misused to root out international NGOs who employ rights-based development approaches and offer constructive but critical opinions and critiques of the government’s policies and practices,” said Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA).

Finally, passage of this law is not necessary in light of existing Cambodian legislation addressing legitimate regulatory concerns: NGOs can obtain legal status through the newly effective Civil Code. Civil Code sections 46-118 provide details on registration and dissolution of non-profit legal entities, the right to appeal government decisions, and far less burdensome registration requirements. The Penal Code and Anti-Corruption Law address fraud; meanwhile INGOs already obtain legal standing through Memoranda of Understanding with the government.

“Cambodia’s donors should press the Ministry of Interior to extend the consultation period on the fourth draft of LANGO so that all viewpoints and voices are heard,” said FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen and OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.

Simon Taylor, Director of Global Witness, concluded “At stake now is the last 17 years of development assistance in Cambodia and the extent to which the donors will be remembered for failing to prevent the removal of one of the few instruments of accountability in Cambodia, nurtured to a great extent thanks to their investments.”

For more information, please contact:

In Bangkok, Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA):  +66-81-868-9178 (mobile),

In Bangkok, Phil Robertson, Deputy Director, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch: +66-85-060-8406 (mobile),

In Bangkok, Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Executive Director, Southeast Asian Press Alliance:  +66-88-017-4810 (mobile),

In Geneva, Delphine Reculeau, Coordinator, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, OMCT:  +41-22-809-4939,

In Halifax, Canada, Toby Mendel, Executive Director, Centre for Law and Democracy: +1-902-431-3688,

In London, Mona Samari, ARTICLE 19 Senior Press Officer: + 44 (207) 324 2510,

In London, Brad Adams, Director, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch: +44-7908-728-333,

In Paris, Arthur Manet, Press Officer, FIDH: +33-14-355-2518,

In Stockholm, Brittis Edman, Program Director, Southeast Asia, Civil Rights Defenders: +46-70-722-6086,

In the United Kingdom, Jenny Bromley, Senior Campaigner, Global Witness: +44 7540 891 837,

In Vancouver, Gail Davidson, Executive Director, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC): +1-604-738-0338,

In Washington, DC,  Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, Southeast Asia Program/International Religious Freedom Consortium, Freedom House: +1-202-489-2578,
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Hong Kong and Cambodia renew agreement on police co-operation

Hong Kong (HKSAR) - The Police of Hong Kong and Cambodia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on December 20 to renew the co-operation on combating transnational crime, including drug trafficking, economic crime, cyber crime and money laundering.

The MOU was signed by the Commissioner of Hong Kong Police(HKP), Mr Tsang Wai-hung, and the Commissioner General of the Cambodian National Police (CNP), Mr Savoeun Neth.

The agreement, signed during the Commissioner's visit to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, complements existing co-operation between HKP and CNP. It sets out the framework in tackling transnational crime and also bolsters the partnership in capacity building and professional development.

Following the signing ceremony, Mr Tsang held a meeting with senior CNP officers on various policing issues of mutual concern.

"Renewal of the MOU marks the commencement of enhanced co-operation between the two forces. Both sides are committed to assisting one another in practical term of policing," the Commissioner said.

He also made a courtesy call on the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Mr H.E.

SAR Kheng, who further reiterated the importance of police co-operation.

The Commissioner headed a five-member delegation, including the Director of Personnel and Training, Mr Ma Wai-luk, for the visit. They returned to Hong Kong today.

Police Report No. 182
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Cambodia Earns US$180mil Annually from Migrant Workers

PHNOM PENH, 22 DECEMBER, 2011: Cambodia has earned about US$180 million annually from migrant workers, working in four countries in Asia, according to a government's statistic released on Thursday, reported China's Xinhua news agency.

Some 126,000 Cambodian workers were working in Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, said the data, adding that the amount sent was direct income for their families, whom majority of them are poor and living in rural areas.

A separate report filed by Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training showed that by the end of July this year, Thailand was the biggest recipient country offering 8,464 jobs, while Malaysia was the second, offering 3,200 and South Korea ranked third with 3,144, respectively.

South Korea is seen as a big growing labour market for Cambodians this year.

Heng Sour, director general of Ministry Labour and Vocational Training, said a rough number of 5,957 Cambodians had been sent to work in South Korea in 2011, already double in number compared to a year earlier that recorded at 2,116 Cambodian workers under the employment permit system.

South Korea began to accept Cambodian workers in 1993 under industrial training system and such system lasted through 2006 with a total of 3,399.

Asia Foundation and the USAID have estimated that there are an average of 300,000 new labour forces in Cambodia, but only 20,000 to 30,000 are expected to get jobs.

Therefore, they said those new labour forces are looking for job opportunities in other countries, and are targeting Malaysia, Thailand, and South Korea, the richer nations.
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