Update: The January 28th Post has some more on the draft law.

The long-awaited Draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations was recently released, and public consultation is ongoing. The law has already attracted some controversy, and there will undoubtedly be more lively discussion. For those who haven’t seen a draft, below is a quick summary of the main provisions. A warning though – this is a DRAFT, there probably will be future drafts, including the final enacted law, that render this information obsolete. In addition a number of Prakas would follow which give more detail to the law. Proceed with caution.

Broadly speaking, the draft’s rules can be separated into two parts:

1] associations, domestic NGOs, and their alliances, and

2] foreign NGOs.

Associations, Domestic NGOs, and their Alliances

Associations and domestic NGOs would need to be registered with the Ministry of Interior. An association needs at least 21 Cambodian nationals, who select at least seven leaders. There’s no mention of whether foreigners may join the association, or form associations themselves. Domestic NGOs must have at least three Cambodian “initiators”, who choose a president who takes care of the registration. Alliances of at least two associations or two NGOs can also be formed, and also need to be registered with the MOI.

The draft lays out the documentation required, and gives the MOI 45 days from receipt to issue a decision. There will also be a registration fee, to be determined at a later date. They will also need to enact a charter to govern the organization, the content of which is outlined in the draft. All existing Domestic NGOs, associations, and alliances will need to re-register within 180 days of the law coming into force.

Foreign NGOs

As is currently required, Foreign NGOs must sign a memorandum with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Before doing so, they’ll need to enter into an agreement with the relevant line ministry or governmental institution. The draft lists the necessary documentation for signing the MOU, and gives the MFAIC 45 days to issue its decision. The MOU is valid for one to three years, renewable indefinitely upon request. The draft also required the collaboration between the Foreign NGO and the relevant ministry in preparing project plans, implementing, monitoring, aggregating and evaluating the results of activities. A new rule would cap administrative expenses at 25% of the total budget.

The draft also spells out the resources, properties, rights, interests and obligations of the organizations. For instance, they must annually report to the government on the year’s activities, plan for the coming year, and budget.

There should be some more developments in the months to come, following the public consultations and debate in the National Assembly. Stay tuned.