Sar Kheng to meet NGOs for sec­ond time next week

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Soth Koem­soeun

CIVIL so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions are set to ex­press their con­cerns in a sec­ond meet­ing with Min­is­ter of In­te­rior Sar Kheng, ac­cord­ing to prom­i­nent NGO lead­ers who will at­tend the gath­er­ing.

Sar Kheng’s spokesman Phat So­phanit told The Post on Thursday that the meet­ing will take place next week.

“It will take place on [ Jan­uary] 17 or 18. It will be a one-day meet­ing. I’m not sure about the de­tails be­cause I’ve been oc­cu­pied with the [min­istry’s] visit to Viet­nam.

“The min­istry hasn’t de­cided on the lo­ca­tion of the meet­ing. And we are not sure how many NGOs will at­tend,” he said.

Late last year, Sar Kheng said he would meet with civil so­ci­ety groups for the sec­ond time as planned, to pro­mote co­op­er­a­tion.

Cam­bo­dian In­de­pen­dent Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (CITA) pres­i­dent Ouk Ch­hayavy told The Post on Thursday that she will at­tend the meet­ing to dis­cuss chal­lenges faced by civil so­ci­ety group over the past years. She said NGOs pre­vi­ously had lit­tle room to ex­press their con­cerns.

“It is very good that the Min­istry of In­te­rior meets with civil so­ci­ety groups, but it would be less so if dur­ing the meet­ing the min­istry dominates the dis­cus­sion with­out any de­bate on cer­tain is­sues we raise.

“In past meet­ings with them, the min­istry merely talked about var­i­ous is­sues with­out any real so­lu­tions to help im­prove sit­u­a­tions in the coun­try,” she said.

The Cen­ter for Al­liance of La­bor and Hu­man Rights (Cen- tral) ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Moeun Tola told The Post on Thursday that he will raise the is­sue of re­stric­tions on free­dom and dis­crim­i­na­tion against NGO of­fi­cials at the grass­roots level dur­ing the meet­ing.

“[The chal­lenge is] when we hold pub­lic gath­er­ings like when we cel­e­brated Hu­man Right Day on De­cem­ber 10, we were not al­lowed to march and there were [con­stant mon­i­tor­ing by] po­lice. We didn’t have full free­dom,” he said.

The Al­liance for Con­flict Trans­for­ma­tion (ACT) ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Srey Sotheavy, who was present dur­ing the first meet­ing, ex­pressed hope for a so­lu­tion and urged the min­istry to gen­uinely ad­dress their con­cerns at next week’s gath­er­ing.

S ot he a v y s a i d s he wa s de­lighted wit h t he min­istr y’s an­nounce­ment late last year t hat NGOs a re no longer requ i red to obta i n per mis­sion be­fore carr y ing out t heir ac­tiv it ies.

“In real prac­tice, [NGOs] were not given free­dom as promised. Higher-rank­ing of­fi­cials need to in­struct their of­fi­cials to co­op­er­ate with civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions,” she said.

More than 170 NGOs par­tic­i­pated in the first meet­ing presided over by the in­te­rior min­is­ter in June last year.

Ac­cord­ing to the min­istry’s fig­ures, there were 5,363 reg­is­tered NGOs as of last year.

HENG CHIVOAN

Sar Kheng is to have a sec­ond meet­ing with civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions on Thursday or Fri­day next week.

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