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

Released in August 2011

On July 29, 2011, the government released a third draft of its widely criticized Law on Associations and on-Governmental Organizations (NGO Law), once again claiming that the newest draft addresses the litany of concerns that have been raised by civil society. One needs look no further than the first chapter of the law, however, to discredit the government's reassurances. Registration is still mandatory, meaning Cambodians cannot exercise their fundamental rights of assembly, expression and association without navigating complex registration procedures and securing the blessing of government officials, who would be given absolute power to create or dissolve civil society groups.

The majority of LICADHO's comments in its briefing papers discussing the first and second drafts of the law are still relevant. As with the second draft, the remaining changes in the third draft are almost entirely cosmetic. The third draft does, however, make one significant improvement in that it expressly mentions a right to appeal a denial of registration. This welcome addition is not without its own issues - namely the lack of a timeline and legal standards for assessing an appeal - but it is an important reflection of the impact that advocacy efforts have had to date.

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