Briefing Paper

Draft Law On Associations & NGOs: Comments on the Fourth Draft

Published on December 15, 2011

On Dec. 12, 2011, the Royal Cambodian Government released the fourth draft of its proposed Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO). The release comes almost exactly one year after the first draft was introduced in mid-December 2010.

The contents of the three earlier drafts provoked extensive criticism from local and international civil society organizations, donor governments, and legal analysts. Twice previously the government has acknowledged these criticisms and promised to come up with a better draft. Twice previously they have failed.

With the fourth draft (Khmer language, English language), they have failed again.

Although the law has shrunk by more than 20 articles and contains some notable improvements, it is also now more confusing than ever. Several key provisions raise more questions than they
answer, both in terms of the law's application and the intent of the government.

The law assures, for example, that domestic associations and non-governmental associations (NGOs) can be "freely established" without prior permission from the government, but then denies unregistered groups the legal status that could be essential to their operations. Is registration truly optional?

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