Authorities told to set dates for CSO forums

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National Launch of Strengthening CSO Networks for Inclusive development in Phnom Penh in 2016. Heng Chivoan

The Ministry of Interior issued a directive on Thursday, telling all provincial administrations to set dates to hold forums with civil society organisations (CSOs), as some CSOs have claimed that their work is being hindered by local authorities.

In the directive, Ministry of Interior secretary of state Bun Honn said the ministry had issued a previous directive last October requiring provincial authorities to meet with CSOs every six months or as often as necessary.

Based on that guidance, Honn requested that provincial administrations clearly assign dates for the consultative forums this year, with the participation of relevant departments and authorities at all levels. The dates should then be sent to the Ministry of Interior, he said.

“Minutes should be taken at the consultations, and provincial administrations must submit a written report to the ministry detailing the results, proposals, recommendations and issues that cannot be resolved in their jurisdictions to request coordination and assistance in solving any problems,” the directive said.

Kampong Speu provincial governor Vei Samnang said his administration has not yet scheduled any meetings with CSOs but he was happy to do so because he regards the organisations as development partners.

The Coalition of Cambodia Farmers Community (CCFC) general-secretary Theng Savoeun said on Thursday that the delay in scheduling consultations between CSOs and the sub-national administrations had resulted in some local authorities obstructing the organisations’ activities, including his own.

He said a recent disruption occurred on March 8, when Memot district authorities in Tbong Khmum province refused permission to the local community to celebrate International Women’s Day.

After that, Savoeun said, Oral district authorities in Kampong Speu province on March 13 told the local people to ask permission from the provincial administration before holding a meeting to discuss forming a community network.

“This practice is contrary to the spirit of consultation between civil society and the government,” he said.

Savoeun said he had also communicated this message to Honn and he hoped that the promised forums between sub-national authorities and CSOs would help the organisations’ work run more smoothly.