Pending Passage of NGO Law, Cambodia Suspends Urban Poor Group

Che de los Reyes, Devex, Aug 12 2011

Cambodia’s suspension of a local non-governmental organization critical of a government project raises concern over an administrative crackdown on groups advocating the rights of the marginalized.

The move comes at a time when the country is about to pass a law, which international and civil society groups fear would give the government discretionary powers and control over them.

Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, a German-funded, local non-governmental organization that works with urban communities, was ordered to halt its operations for five months starting Aug. 1 for its alleged failure to submit certain documents to the government.

The move has drawn protests from civil society groups in the country who say that the government’s decision has no legal basis.

STT has been known to be critical of a $142 million government project to rehabilitate Cambodia’s railway. The project is jointly funded by the Asian Development Bank and the Australian government. The group said that households displaced by the project are worse off because they have not received the full compensation due them, which could have enabled them to build a home in the relocation site provided by the government.

Cambodia’s Council of Ministers is currently discussing the third draft of an NGO law that has drawn criticism from donors and development groups around the world. The draft will next go to parliament, where it is expected to be passed by the ruling party.