អាជ្ញាធរ​តម្រូវ​ឲ្យ​ពលរដ្ឋ​ជាង ៧០ គ្រួសារ​រើ​ផ្ទះ​ចេញ​ពី​ក្បែរ​ផ្លូវ​ដែក

ប្រភព៖ ភ្នំពេញប៉ុស្តិ៍,​ ដោយ៖ ឃុត សុភចរិយា,Wed, 2 September 2015

បន្ទាយមានជ័យៈ ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋ​ប្រមាណ​ជាង​ ៧០ ​គ្រួសារ​ដែល​រស់នៅ​តាម​បណ្ដោយ​ផ្លូវ​រថភ្លើង​ស្ថិត​ក្នុង​ភូមិ​ក្បាល​ស្ពាន​សង្កាត់​ព្រះពន្លា ក្រុង​សិរីសោភ័ណ ខេត្ត​បន្ទាយមានជ័យ​ត្រូវ​បាន​អាជ្ញាធរ​តម្រូវ​ឲ្យ​ធ្វើការ​រុះរើ​ផ្ទះ​ទៅកាន់​ទីតាំង​ថ្មី​ដើម្បី​សម្រួល​ដល់​គម្រោង​សា្ថបនា​ផ្លូវ​វាង​ក្រវាត់​ក្រុង និង​គម្រោង​ស្ថាបនា​ឡើង​វិញ​នូវ​ផ្លូវ​រថភ្លើង​នៅ​កម្ពុជា​ពី​ភ្នំពេញ​ទៅ​កាន់​អូរជ្រៅ​ក្រុង​ប៉ោយប៉ែត​ជាប់​ព្រំប្រទល់​ដែន​កម្ពុជា-ថៃ។

លោក អ៊ូ ម៉ៅ អាយុ​ ៤៧ ​ឆ្នាំ​ជា​ពលរដ្ឋ​ម្នាក់​ក្នុង​ចំណោម​នោះ​បាន​និយាយ​កាលពី​ម្សិលមិញ​ថា​អាជ្ញាធរ​ក្រុង​សិរីសោភ័ណ គ្រោង​តម្រូវ​ឲ្យ​ពួកគាត់​រុះរើ​ផ្ទះ​ទាំងអស់​គ្នា​នៅ​ចុង​ខែ​កញ្ញា​ខាង​មុខ​នេះ​ដើម្បី​រៀបចំ​ស្ថាបនា​ផ្លូវ​វាង​ក្រវាត់​ក្រុង​មួយ​ខ្សែ​ និង​ដើម្បី​សម្រួល​ដល់​ដំណើការ​អនុវត្ត​គម្រោង​ស្ដារ​ផ្លូវ​រថភ្លើង​ឡើង​វិញ​ពី​ភ្នំពេញ​ទៅ​អូជ្រៅ​ក្រុង​ប៉ោយប៉ែត។

លោក​ ម៉ៅ បាន​បន្ត​ថា​កាលពី​សប្ដាហ៍​មុន​អាជ្ញាធរ​បាន​បើក​កិច្ចប្រជុំ​មួយ​ដោយ​បាន​បញ្ជាក់​ពី​ទីតាំង​ថ្មី​ដែល​នឹង​ត្រូវ​ផ្លាស់ប្ដូរ​ពួកគាត់​ទៅកាន់​ទី​នោះ​ដែល​ទីតាំង​ថ្មី​មាន​ចម្ងាយ​ប្រមាណ​ជាង​ ៥០០ ​ម៉ែត្រ​ស្ថិត​នៅ​ភាគ​ខាង​លិច​ទីតាំង​ចាស់​ក្បែរ​ស្នងការ​ដ្ឋាន​នគរបាល​ខេត្ត​បន្ទាយមានជ័យ​ហើយ​បច្ចុប្បន្ន​នេះ​កំពុង​ចាក់​ដី​បំពេញ​នៅ​ឡើយ។

លោក​បាន​បញ្ជាក់​ថា៖ «ទោះ​យ៉ាង​ណា​ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋ​នៅក្នុង​សហគមន៍​របស់​ពួកគាត់​មិន​បាន​ជំទាស់​ចំពោះ​គម្រោង​អភិវឌ្ឍន៍​នោះ​ទេ​ប៉ុន្តែ​បាន​ស្នើ​សុំឲ្យ​អាជ្ញាធរ​ជួយ​ផ្ដល់​ជា​សោហ៊ុយ​បន្ថែម​ខ្លះ​ទៀត​សម្រាប់​ចំណាយ​លើ​ការ​រុះរើ​ និង​សាងសង់​ផ្ទះ​ឡើង​វិញ​នៅ​ទីតាំង​ថ្មី​ដែល​រដ្ឋាភិបាល​បាន​ផ្ដល់​ឲ្យ​នោះ​ដោយ​លើក​ហេតុផល​ថា​ដី​របស់​ពួកគាត់​បច្ចុប្បន្ន​មាន​ទំហំ​ធំ​ជាង​ជិត​ពីរ​ដង​បើ​ធៀប​ទៅ​នឹង​ដី​ដែល​ត្រូវ​បាន​ផ្ដល់​ឲ្យ​នៅក្នុង​ទីតាំង​ថ្មី​នោះ»។

បើ​តាម​លោក ម៉ៅ អាជ្ញាធរ​ក្រុង​សិរីសោភ័ណ​បាន​កំណត់​ផ្ដល់​ដី​ជូន​ពួកគាត់​នៅលើ​ទីតាំង​ថ្មី​នោះ​ក្នុង​មួយ​គ្រួសារ​តែ​ត្រឹម​ទំហំ​ដី​ ៤ ​ម៉ែត្រx ១៦ ​ម៉ែត្រ​ប៉ុណ្ណោះ។

ពាក់ព័ន្ធ​ទៅ​នឹង​បញ្ហា​នេះ​លោក អ៊ុំ រាត្រី អភិបាលរង​ខេត្ត​បន្ទាយមានជ័យ និង​ជា​អ្នក​នាំ​ពាក្យ​នៃ​សាលា​ខេត្ត​នេះ​បាន​ប្រាប់​ភ្នំពេញ​ប៉ុស្តិ៍​កាលពី​ម្សិលមិញ​ថា​តាម​គម្រោង​អាជ្ញាធរ​ចង់​ឲ្យ​មាន​ការ​រុះរើ​ទៅ​កាន់​ទីតាំង​ថ្មី​ឲ្យ​អស់​នៅ​ពាក់កណ្ដាល​ខែ​កញ្ញា​ ឬ​ដើម​ខែ​តុលា​ខាង​មុខ​នេះ​ប៉ុន្តែ​នៅពេល​នេះ​គឺជា​រដូវ​ភ្លៀង​ដូច្នេះ​ការ​រុះរើ​អាច​នឹង​​ពន្យារពេល។

លោក អ៊ុំ រាត្រី បាន​បញ្ជាក់​ថា៖ «​ទោះ​ជា​បែប​ណា​យើង​ចង់​ឲ្យ​ពួកគាត់​ដាក់​សំណើ​សុំ​សោហ៊ុយ​បន្ថែម​នោះ​មក​យើង​តាមរយៈ​អាជ្ញាធរ​ក្រុង​ហើយ​យើង​នឹង​ពិនិត្យ​មើល​បន្ថែម​ទៀត​ទៅ​តាម​លទ្ធភាព​ជាក់ស្ដែង»។

លោក​បាន​ប្រាប់​ឲ្យ​ដឹង​ទៀត​ថា​ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋ​ដែល​នឹង​ត្រូវ​ផ្លាស់ប្ដូរ​លំនៅ​ទៅ​កាន់​ទីតាំង​ថ្មី​នោះ​សរុប​ចំនួន​ ៧២ ​គ្រួសារ។ ពួកគាត់​បាន​រស់នៅ​លើ​ដី​ចំណី​ផ្លូវ​រថភ្លើង និង​នៅលើ​ទីតាំង​នៃ​គម្រោង​ស្ថាបនា​ផ្លូវ​វាង​ក្រវាត់​ក្រុង​ដែល​គម្រោង​នេះ​នឹង​ត្រូវ​ចាប់ផ្ដើម​ធ្វើ​នៅ​ដើម​ខែ​ក្រោយ៕

More NGOs scrutinised

Vincent MacIsaac and Cheang Sokha, Phnom Penh Post, Aug 19 2011

International NGO Bridges Across Borders and umbrella group NGO Forum met yesterday morning with officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who accused both of making “false” and “unfair” claims to the Asian Development Bank about the death of two children relocated by a railway rehabilitation project.

The meeting follows the suspension early this month of NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut for allegedly “inciting” villagers to protest against the railway project, and prompted a statement from the ADB yesterday supporting both groups and expressing concern about the level of scrutiny they are under.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong told the Post yesterday that the government was concerned about an October 21 report to the ADB linking the death of two children to the railway project, which is funded by the bank. It was signed by Bridges Across Borders, STT and umbrella groups NGO Forum and Housing Rights Taskforce.

The groups had pointed to the two children who drowned at a relocation site in Battambang as an example of inadequate facilities for those forced to move to make way for the restored railway.

The NGOs also brought the two cases to the attention of media in Cambodia and Australia.

“Our investigation contradicted the report from the NGOs. The railroad project and the drowning of the two children are completely different matters, but the NGOs linked them to the project when there was no link at all,” Koy Kuong said.

“We advised them to improve their work performance in order to further strengthen cooperation between the government and civil society,” he said, adding that the meeting yesterday was chaired by Secretary of State Ouch Borith.

Neither Bridges Across Borders nor STT responded to requests for comment yesterday. Staff at NGO Forum confirmed they had attended the meeting but declined to comment further. Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, which includes Bridges Across Borders as a member, confirmed that ministry officials had raised the issue at yesterday’s meeting.

“This government does not like NGOs,” Sia Phearum said, adding that the government did not want NGOs involved in development projects linked to businesses because this would require enhanced transparency. “If we were a real democracy they would thank [NGOs] for our work, but in this country it is different,” he said.

The ADB, which has approved US$84 million in loans for the railway project, was quick to react to the meeting saying it viewed “recent developments with the utmost seriousness”.

The project, which will rehabilitate rail lines connecting Kampot to Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh to Battambang, is set to be completed by 2013. A joint venture between the Australian company Toll Holdings and Cambodian conglomerate Royal Group has a 30-year contract to build and run the railway network.

NGO ‘incitement’

Vong Sokheng and Mary Kozlovski, Phnom Penh Post, Aug 15 2011

The Ministry of Interior has accused a local NGO it suspended earlier this month of “inciting villagers” set to be displaced by a railway reconstruction project, citing it in a statement obtained by The Post yesterday as a reason for halting the organisat-ion’s operations.

The statement, signed by the spokesman for the Ministry of Inter-ior, says Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), which works with poor urban communities, has been suspended until December 31 for failing to report some of its activities and actions regarding development projects.

“The STT has acted [by] inciting villagers in Kampot province and in Phnom Penh to protest [against] the government development plan, aiming to do whatever [it can] to make the development partners of the government suspend or stop the national development plan for restoring the railway,” the statement says.

The document also states that STT was suspended because the organis-ation had changed its director three times without informing the Interior Ministry and had opened an office in Kampot province without notifying local authorities.

In July, STT released a report stating that compensation for villagers in four communities affected by the railway reconstruction project, which runs from Phnom Penh to Sihan-oukville and Battambang, might be insufficient due to a “systematic downgrade” of the value of their homes by the government.

On August 2, STT received a letter from the Interior Ministry ordering the organisation to “suspend [its] activities” until the end of this year because STT “has not modified its leadership structure and made revis-ions to its statute according to the instruction of a specialised department”. Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said yesterday that NGOs must conduct their activities in accordance with their own statutes, which are kept at the Ministry of Interior.

STT programme co-ordinator Ee Sarom said via email yesterday that STT was looking into the letter and that the organisation looked forward “to returning to our operations as soon as possible”.

A joint statement released by civil- society groups on Thursday condemned STT’s suspension as “arbitrary” and a glimpse of future government treatment of civil society if a controversial draft law on NGOs and associations is passed.

“Even before the restrictive law has been enacted, Cambodian society has been offered  a preview into the future of government control over civil- society organisations and associations,” the joint statement says.

Meanwhile, at a meeting in the US on Friday, development and rights organisations expressed concern that the delivery of foreign aid and overseas investment in the Kingdom, including from the US, could be compromised if the draft NGO law were passed in its present form.

Rights groups have been vocal in their criticism of the draft law, which would compel NGOs and associations to register with the government and adhere to numerous reporting requirements.

“One doesn’t need a crystal ball to envisage that if this law passes in its current form, it will make aid delivery extremely inefficient, ineffective and cumbersome,” Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, senior program manager for Southeast Asia at Freedom House, said via email on Saturday.

Gunawardena-Vaughn said that although an appeals process had been reintroduced in the third draft of the law, released last month, it still provided the government with a “carte blanche” in the registrat-ion or termination of civil society groups.

“In this environment of economic belt-tightening …  it will certainly give Western donors pause with regard to whether Cambodia will be the country in which they will see the best bang for their buck,” she said.

Gregory Adams, director of aid effectiveness at Oxfam America, said Cambodians who relied on the support of civil-society groups for their livelihoods would be hurt the most if the draft law was passed in its present form.

He added that although Oxfam could not speak on behalf of the US government, the organisation was “gravely” concerned about the impact the draft law could have on US investment in Cambodia.

“In these economic times, the US wants reassurance that its investments will be maximised and sustained by a vibrant civil society,” Adams  said via email.

Rights groups have said  it will be difficult for civil-society organisations to have further input into the draft law, which was sent to the Council of Ministers last month.

Government officials have previously said the law on NGOs and associations would not infringe on the rights of civil society groups and would strengthen democracy in Cambodia.

NGOs in shock over ‘arbitrary’ suspension

Vincent MacIsaac and Mom Kunthea, Phnom Penh Post, Aug 12 2011

The “arbitrary” suspension of a Phnom Penh NGO that works with the city’s poor offers a preview of what will happen when a new law on associations and NGOs is enacted, civil society groups warned yesterday.

“Even before the restrictive law has been enacted, Cambodian society has been offered a preview into the future of government control over civil society,” a statement from a group of more than 30 NGOs and donor groups said.

“The use of a vague administrative technicality to suspend an organisation is an alarmingly clear sign of how the Cambodian government intends to use the NGO law to curb the activities of all associations and NGOs that advocate for the rights of marginalised groups,” the groups said.

The national and international organisations ranged from rights groups to unions, Christian aid agencies and NGOs that promote children’s rights. The groups gathered yesterday afternoon at the office of NGO Forum to discuss the suspension of Sahmakum Teang Tnaut by the Ministry of Interior.

STT received a letter from the ministry on August 2 ordering it to “suspend [its] activities” until the end of this year. The NGO produces research on urban development. It also researches relocations sites for those evicted from the capital.

Naly Pilorge, director of rights group Licadho, said the lawyers and rights workers who have been analysing the ministry’s letter “found no legal basis for the suspension”.

“Lawyers have poured over this letter and no one has been able to understand [the legal reasoning behind it]. The best we can determine is that the relevant ministries have decided to implement the law on associations and NGOs before it has even been passed and enacted,” she said. “If this can be done arbitrarily, any group can be closed and suspended.”

The letter cites administrative and procedural breaches, such as “failing to modify its leadership structure”, as reasons for the suspension, according to lawyers who have analysed it.

Yesterday’s statement from civil society groups said they were “not aware of any legal provision authorising such a suspension” and that attempts “to seek clarification from the Ministry of Interior have been met with silence”.

Yeng Virak, director of the Community Legal Education Centre, said he was “shocked” by the suspension. “Imagine what will happen when the NGO law is passed,” he said.

A third draft of the controversial legislation is at the Council of Ministers. It has been sharply criticised as an attempt by the government to restrict freedom of association and speech, as well as undermine the progress Cambodia has made in developing a civil society sector.

“The future of Cambodia democracy is at a crossroads,” the groups warned yesterday. “STT’s work with some of Cambodia’s most marginalised communities should be applauded, not silenced.”

STT programme coordinator Ee Sarom said: “We deeply regret the recent decision of the MoI and we look forward to returning to our operations as soon as possible.”

Tith Sothea, spokesman for Quick Press Reaction Unit, declined to comment, referring questions to Nouth Sa An, secretary of state of Ministry off Interior, who could not be reached.

Third draft of Cambodia’s associations and NGO law overlooks key concerns

Borithy Lun, The Guardian, Aug 12 2011

MDG : NGO in Cambodia

A Mith Samlanh education centre run by NGO Friends-International. A law requiring NGOs to register threatens such projects. Photograph: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Civil society groups in Cambodia finally received a glimpse of the third draft of the law on associations and non-governmental organisations (NGO law) on 29 July.

Cambodia’s citizens had previously only been able to speculate on what the draft law might contain, and how it might ultimately be enforced. The international community and civil society in Cambodia have criticised previous versions of the law as having a restrictive effect on civil society, effectively weakening citizen accountability for poverty-focused efforts.

Co-operation between the Cambodian government and civil society has long been central to the country’s evolution from a war-torn country to a peaceful, vibrant, developing one. While government and civil society organisations have often had different opinions, they have held constructive discussions and co-operated.

However, the latest draft of the NGO law puts this relationship at risk by severely restricting freedom of expression and potentially reducing the voice of many organisations that represent and protect the marginalised: farmers, labour unionists, land activists, students, sex workers, and the disabled.

From the perspective of civil society, the third draft of the NGO law has not changed significantly from the second and first draft. The NGO law still fails to respect fundamental rights, including freedom of association and freedom of expression. In its present form, the draft law will have a severe, negative impact on domestic NGOs and associations as well as foreign NGOs, and will dramatically hinder the delivery of development aid to Cambodia. The result: valuable public services will be curtailed, development at the community level will be stunted, and poverty and corruption will increase. Moreover, the draft law will affect government programs. Major concerns about the current draft include:

• Registration is mandatory and complex, rather than voluntary and simple.

• No safeguards to ensure that denials of registration or involuntary dissolutions are imposed objectively.

• The law does not include a period for an appeal process when a request for registration is denied.

• Key terms in the law are undefined, and many sections are vague.

Ambiguity as well as the complex registration process and reporting requirements will add to the burden of government agencies responsible for administering new regulations, especially the ministry of the interior and the ministry of foreign affairs and international co-operation.

Civil society groups understand the government’s need for a legal framework to ensure the stability and security of the country, and to facilitate the effective delivery of development and humanitarian aid. However, such a framework also needs to give citizens the freedom to engage in law-abiding activities without undue restrictions or burdens. To improve the law, the government should:

• Eliminate mandatory registration except for domestic NGOs and associations that wish to take advantage of the benefits of registration.

• Allow the NGO and association registration process to “be truly accessible, with clear, speedy, apolitical, and corruption-free procedures”.

• Clearly outline a transparent process for the evaluation of registration applications. Any government decision to deny registration should be in writing and take effect over a reasonable and manageable time frame. The appeal process should be explicit and quick. It should also coincide clearly with objective legal standards for the purposes of review.

• Exclude or simplify reporting procedures for small, provincial, community-based development organisations and alliances in articles 44, 46 and 48.

• Incorporate a glossary explanatory notes for every article in the draft.

Cambodia’s past development success – social and economic – would never have happened if the opportunities to freely organise and express opinions had been curtailed. It is, therefore, not only in the best interest of Cambodia’s citizens but also to the advantage of the national government to make registration optional for domestic NGOs and associations, to make it simple and to define terms. Successful development of societies worldwide goes hand in hand with increased openness.

Campaign Against NGO Law Intensifies

Richard Finney and Parameswaran Ponnudurai, Radio Free Asia, Aug 12 2011

oncerned by Cambodia’s suspension of a German-funded society advocating for the urban poor, nongovernmental organizations in the country have stepped up a campaign against a proposed law governing their activities.

Forty civil society bodies and umbrella groups condemned in a statement Friday the Cambodian government’s decision suspending the operations of Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) for five months effective Aug. 1, citing its failure to file certain documents.

“The use of a vague administrative technicality to suspend an organization is an alarmingly clear sign of how the Cambodian government intends to use the NGO Law to curb the activities of all associations and NGOs that advocate for the rights of marginalized groups within Cambodian society,” the groups said in a joint statement.

“We condemn the suspension of STT in the strongest possible terms. The suspension of STT is completely arbitrary and a violation of the constitutional right to freedom of expression and association, and an assault on human rights defenders,” they said.

The groups, which include groups such as Oxfam, Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC), and NGO Coalition to Address Trafficking & Sexual Exploitation of Children in Cambodia, demanded an “immediate reversal” of the suspension.

“We regard this act to silence STT as an act of oppression against us all,” they said.

STT, which has worked for six years providing services and advice to urban communities in Cambodia, has the German government’s development arm Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) as one of its key funders.

Third draft

The suspension came as the government considers the third draft of a controversial law designed to regulate nongovernmental organizations that has been criticized by NGOs and some donors as an an attempt to restrict freedom of association and speech as well as the growth of civil society.

“Civil society organizations, including associations and NGOs, are very concerned that the law in its third draft gives far-reaching power to the authorities to control the rights of citizens to organize and express themselves,” said a statement issued by a group of NGOs on Aug. 3.

These rights are set out in the Cambodian Constitution and international treaties that Cambodia has signed, the statement said.

Speaking at the Washington offices of Oxfam America—an international aid and development group—Cooperation Committee of Cambodia executive director Borithy Lun said that Cambodia’s Ministry of the Interior released the law’s third draft on July 29.

The draft includes some recommendations made by NGOs in response to earlier drafts, but does not address all of their concerns, Lun said.

He urged Cambodia’s government to look again at the recommendations made by NGOs operating in the country.

“We feel it is very important for civil society to have space to operate, and for [civil-society groups and NGOs] to be able to continue to serve the poor and vulnerable people of Cambodia.”

Unclear provisions in the law, as it is now drafted, would make it difficult for NGOs and small, community-based organizations to work to help Cambodia’s poor, and would block the country’s economic development, Lun said.

Among these provisions, Lun said, is the requirement under Article 6 that all NGOs—both grassroots organizations and international groups—re-register with the government.

The proposed law will now go to Cambodia’s Council of Ministers and National Assembly for approval, then to the Senate for review, and then to the Constitutional Council, Lun said. Finally, it will be enacted by “endorsed royal assent” by the King.

Enabling NGOs

The law in its final form should “enable” rather than restrict the operations of NGOs in Cambodia, Lun said.

“We have taken action in Cambodia to brief the members of parliament and brief the members of the Senate, sharing with them our concerns and our recommendation as to how this law should be amended to reflect the ‘enabling’ aspect, so that civil society can function to serve the people of Cambodia.”

But legislative action to approve the law now stands at “the eleventh hour”  Lun said, and could move forward very quickly at this point.

Also speaking at Oxfam, Sue Vaughn—Freedom House senior program manager for Southeast Asia and International Religious Freedom—agreed that the law might now be enacted quickly, but said there may still be time to recommend changes.

It is in the Cambodian government’s own interest to protect “peaceful dissent, peaceful association, and peaceful assembly” in the country, as these will promote further development, Vaughn said.

“I think that Cambodia has had unprecedented peace in the last ten years. It has had unprecedented economic development and growth, and these are all good things. And we need to acknowledge those good things that have come out in the last ten years.”

A “vibrant” Cambodian civil society will lead to a vibrant Cambodian democracy and will attract foreign investors, Vaughn said.

Vaughn noted that Cambodia will take on the chairmanship of ASEAN next year.

“If Cambodia goes through with enacting a law that really represses its civil society, it is going to lose credibility—both in the region as well as in the international arena.”

Cambodia must demonstrate both to the international community and to its regional partners in Southeast Asia that it takes democracy seriously, Vaughn said.

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.

Cambodia suspends German-funded NGO that lobbies for urban poor

Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Monsters and Critics, Aug 11 2011

Phnom Penh – A collective of more than 30 civil society bodies and umbrella groups on Thursday condemned a decision to suspend a local non-governmental organization that advocates for the urban poor in Cambodia.

Earlier the government confirmed it had ordered Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) to suspend operations for five months starting August 1, citing its failure to file certain documents.

However the civil society collective said there appeared to be no legal basis for the suspension, and demanded it be reversed.

‘To our knowledge the real reason for suspending STT is the organisation’s legitimate work among urban poor communities,’ the collective said in its statement.

STT has worked for six years providing services and advice to urban communities.

The German government’s development arm Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is one of its key funders, as is German Catholic charity Misereor.

STT’s program coordinator Ee Sarom said Thursday the organization was ‘committed to pro-poor sustainable development’, and looked forward to resuming operations ‘as soon as possible.’

In the past two years STT has criticized aspects of the 142-million-dollar redevelopment of Cambodia’s decrepit rail network. Funding for that project has come from the Asian Development Bank, the Australian government and Phnom Penh.

The NGO has previously complained that the project had made some of the country’s poorest even worse off, a stance that observers say has annoyed the government.

STT’s suspension comes as the Council of Ministers assesses a controversial draft law designed to regulate civil society. Hundreds of NGOs and some donors, including the United States, have come out against the current draft.

One objection is that registration would be both complicated and mandatory for every association and organization; another is that the draft lacks safeguards against dissolution or denial of registration.

Unless the draft is sent back to ministries for further work, it will proceed next to parliament where the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s majority could see it quickly passed.

The NGO collective claimed STT’s suspension was indicative of the government’s intent to use the law ‘to curb the activities of all associations and NGOs that advocate for the rights of marginalized groups.’