[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday urged Cambodia to drop plans to revive [press release] a restrictive nongovernmental organizations (NGO) law. Prime Minister Hun Sen [BBC profile] has reportedly said he would use the Law on Associations and Nongovernmental Organizations (LANGO) to “handcuff” non compliant groups. Brian Adams, HRW Asia director said that NGOs play a crucial rule in holding the government accountable and that the new law would allow the government to “clamp down on groups that criticize human rights abuses, corruption, and other government misdeeds.” The Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) [party website] has suggested bills like this several times in the past 20 years. While drafts of the proposed legislation have improved, HRW says that the vague text will potentially allow the government to remove disfavored groups at their discretion. HRW also claims that the draft legislation contains burdensome reporting requirements for groups and barriers for international groups. HRW has urged the government to make the draft available for public debate and drop current drafts until then.
The lack of transparency in the Cambodian legislature has led to international concern. Earlier this month the UN Human Rights Committee stated [report, DOC] that the government needs to make public all draft legislation in order to facilitate debate. Cambodia has had a history of human rights abuses that have continued to alarm rights organizations around the world. In early March Cambodia’s Parliament [official website] passed [JURIST report] two controversial new election laws that rights groups criticized as ill-conceived and potentially damaging to free speech. In January Cambodian General Sao Sohka admitted to using force [JURIST report] against political opponents of the CPP. Earlier in January the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) restarted genocide hearings [JURIST report] against the former Khmer Rouge regime’s surviving leaders. Proceedings had been postponed since November, when defense lawyers refused to participate [JURIST report] because they were still working to appeal an earlier verdict. In October the Cambodian government released the findings of a survey [JURIST report] showing the magnitude of violence against children throughout the country. In September UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia Surya Subedi commented [JURIST report] on Cambodia’s recent efforts in human rights protection, noting that while there have been improvements, there are still substantial problems in the judicial system.