EU calls for suspension of land NGO to be lifted

EU ambassador George Edgar speaks at a press conference hosted at the European Union office in Phnom Penh last year.
EU ambassador George Edgar speaks at a press conference hosted at the European Union office in Phnom Penh last year. Heng Chivoan

The European Union’s ambassador to Cambodia, George Edgar, yesterday called on the government to end its ostensibly temporary suspension of land rights organisation Equitable Cambodia.

Edgar said he had raised the issue with the Ministry of Interior, which had issued a letter to the organisation at the end of September ordering their suspension for 30 working days for allegedly failing to comply with the controversial Law on Associations and NGOs and their own bylaws.

Equitable Cambodia has worked with villagers in land disputes nationwide, many of whom claim that their land was grabbed by powerful companies, such as Phnom Penh Sugar, owned by ruling party Senator Ly Yong Phat.

“Equitable Cambodia . . . is one of those organisations which have been working with the affected communities for a long time, and we believe it’s important that the NGOs that have a worked with the communities should be involved in the process of resolving the [conflicts] around the sugar land concessions,” he said. “Equitable Cambodia is an important one of those organisations. We hope that they will be able to play a full part in the process.”

Prak Sam Oeun, director general of the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Administration, said that he wasn’t sure when the NGO’s suspension would be lifted, and directed questions to the director of the Department of Associations and Political Parties, Chhim Kan, who could not be reached.

Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia, said they had still not heard from the Interior Ministry. “Although we have submitted all documents requested by the MoI, we have had no official response from them,” he said. “We are looking forward to their positive response so we can continue to assist affected communities.”

Additional reporting by Soth Koemsoeun