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Friday, 7 October 2011

Briefing Book on the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations and the Shrinking Space for Civil Society in Cambodia

CCHR Press Release – Phnom Penh, 6 October 2011

CCHR Releases Briefing Book for Donors and Others on the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations and the Shrinking Space for Civil Society in Cambodia

Dear all,

Today the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”), a non-aligned, independent, non-governmental organization (“NGO”) that works to promote and protect democracy and respect for human rights throughout Cambodia, releases a briefing book titled “Briefing Book for Donors and Others on the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations and the Shrinking Space for Civil Society in Cambodia” (the “Briefing Book”) – please see attached.

The Briefing Book discusses the threat posed to civil society and democratic space in Cambodia in light of recent actions by agencies of the Royal Government of Cambodia (“RGC”) and the controversial draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (“LANGO”). Primarily, the Briefing Book focuses upon: (1) the ongoing efforts to silence NGOs and dissenting voices, as well as the erosion of democratic space in Cambodia; (2) the fundamental deficiencies in the most recent draft of the LANGO; and, most importantly, (3) the improper use to which the LANGO may be put, given the current context. The conclusions as to the danger that the LANGO poses to civil society and to donor programs – as highlighted by recent events – are fully documented through Annexes to the Briefing Book available on Sithi – the award-winning Cambodian Human Rights Portal hosted by CCHR – at www.sithi.org/annex_view.php.

Even if the LANGO is improved, those amendments are unlikely to correct the primary harm that it represents. The statements made by the RGC regarding how the LANGO will be applied, and “who should be afraid of it” make clear that it will be used to stifle advocacy NGOs that hold the RGC accountable. Recent events demonstrate that minor technical defects – real or imagined – can and will be used selectively to silence those critical of the RGC.

Most importantly, however, the LANGO is not the central issue here. Regardless of whether or not the RGC revises the LANGO to take into account donors’ and civil society’s original recommendations and suggested amendments, recent events have made clear that the critical concern is the rapid and continuing erosion of democratic space in Cambodia and the RGC’s attempt to exert total control over civil society to the detriment of a wide range of stakeholders. If this is allowed to happen, a multitude of negative consequences will result: reduced delivery of aid to the neediest Cambodians, the deterioration of human rights, an increase in corruption, a loss of opportunities for Western businesses, and a loss of influence for Western nations.

The recent experience of the World Bank makes clear that if donors take strong action, there is a good chance that they will favorably influence the RGC. The donors need to use their funds and influence to ensure the survival of civil society and democratic space in Cambodia.

Kind regards,



The Briefing Book will soon be available to view or to download in English on the Cambodian Human Rights Portal, www.sithi.org, and on the CCHR website, www.cchrcambodia.org.

For more information please contact CCHR at this e-mail address: info@cchrcambodia.org.

Please note that this press release is also attached in PDF format.

Notes to Editor:

CCHR was founded in November 2002.

CCHR is a member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), the global network for freedom of expression.

The Cambodian Human Rights Portal www.sithi.org is the 2011 winner of the Information Society Innovation Fund Award in the category of Rights and Freedoms.

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