International non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have written to 35 foreign ministries to review donor aid if the Government of Cambodia passes a law severely restricting the activities of NGOs in the country. The law seems to stem from the Government’s growing distaste of resistance by communities facing forced evictions and land-grabbing. If passed, the law will negatively impact those working with us on our global forced evictions campaign and other organizations working on human rights in Cambodia more broadly. The Guardian describes how campaigns on forced evictions and land-grabbing, in particular, have contributed to the law being introduced. Our partners in Cambodia, LICADHO, have also written about the proposed law on a Guardian blog.
The law comes at the same time international donors and lending institutions, like the World Bank, are scrutinizing the development projects they fund in the country. After hearing numerous times from communities and activists, donor countries and the World Bank are raising their concerns about human rights abuses caused by development and the World Bank has even stopped all funding. The Government of Cambodia seems to be taking notice.
The recent offer to discuss development alternatives with the remaining residents facing forced eviction in the Boeung Kak area of Phnom Penh (which was stated after the World Bank froze funding), is an example of a potentially positive outcome of pressuring international funders to act on human rights abuses caused by development. Now we need to see if the Government follows through on its offer.
As the Government of Cambodia becomes more concerned about keeping its development funding, it is also working simultaneously to silence those bringing the abuses to light in the first place.
For updates, join the Facebook group Oppose the Cambodian NGO & Associations Law. You can also show your support by adding a badge to your Facebook profile, like I did. And read more about our global campaign on forced evictions.