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Alert Detail
Suspension of prominent land rights NGO confirms civil society fears regarding forthcoming NGO law
Date Issue 2011-08-12
Nature of violation
Suspension of Cambodian NGO with immediate effect in Phnom Penh
Rights involved
Right to freedom of expression, Article 41 of the Constitution of Cambodia and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Right to freedom of association, Article 42 of the Constitution of Cambodia and Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Brief Description

It was confirmed yesterday, 11 August 2011, that the Ministry of Interior (the "MOI") has suspended a well-known land rights non-governmental organization ("NGO"), Sahmakum Teang Tnaut ("STT"), which has been critical of government-backed evictions, most notably the rehabilitation of a railway link that could displace thousands of poor families.  According to The Cambodia Daily, Secretary of State for the MOI, Nuth Sa An, confirmed that the MOI had sent STT a letter several weeks ago ordering the NGO to suspend work because it had apparently failed to heed government warnings regarding a violation that it had allegedly committed.  Nuth Sa An declined to say what the violation was.

STT has for several years spoken out against land evictions in both the capital, Phnom Penh, and rural areas. Most recently, STT has been one of the more vocal critics of government plans to rehabilitate a dilapidated rail link connecting Phnom Penh with Thailand: it slammed the Royal Government of Cambodia and donors for failing to consider adequately the thousands of families who live alongside the railway and who face displacement as a result of the railway rehabilitation. On 4 July 2011, STT released a report titled “Rehabilitation of Cambodia’s Railways: Comparison of Field Data” which reports findings of “systematic downgrading of structure types leading to lower compensation rates” owed to home owners affected by the railway rehabilitation as well as “a higher number of affected households” than officially reported by the government’s Inter-Ministerial Resettlement Committee.

In connection with the length of the suspension it has been reported that no specific period of has been set but that STT will be able to seek re-registration when the controversial Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (the "LANGO") comes into force.  The LANGO, now awaiting approval at the Council of Ministers, has been widely criticized both because of its imposition of registration on grassroots movements and community-based organizations, with all the onerous registration and documentation requirements that go with it, and because of the lack of transparency in the assessment process.  Fears that advocacy NGOs could be a target of the LANGO were prematurely realized with the suspension of STT.

 

Yesterday, 11 August 2011, 30 Cambodian NGOs - including CCHR - issued a joint statement condemning the suspension, saying that there is no valid or legal basis for it


Contact

Ou Virak, President of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights

Email: ouvirak@cchrcambodia.org

Telephone: +855 12 40 40 51
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