Association and Union Laws

On July 13, 2015, the National Assembly voted to pass the Law on Associations and NGOs.  The CNRP party boycotted the vote in protest. The approved version has 39 articles.  The Senate approved the law on July 24.On Wednesday, August 12, 2015, the Constitutional Council of Cambodia approved the draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations.  Later, that evening, the king signed the LANGO into law.  Click here for a copy in Khmer. Click here for an English translation of the July 13 version.

The following analysis was created in 2015, prior to the passage of LANGO:

The issue of LANGO is crucial for the future of Cambodian democracy and the harmonious development of Cambodia. CSOs don’t want to have LANGO for many reasons, including:

1) The Paris Peace Agreement, signed by the 4 Cambodian factions on 23 October 1991 (PPA): The Cambodian government promised to adhere to (ratify and implement) all the international human rights instruments. LANGO goes against these instruments. [The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 20 guarantees everyone the right of association. CEDAW Article 7 gives women equal rights to join NGOs and associations.  The registration requirements of LANGO have a greater impact on women.]

2) Cambodia ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1992. [Articles 19, 21 and 22 guarantee freedom of expression, assembly and association, and prohibit restrictions unless based on “national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” LANGO goes way beyond this.]

3) Cambodian Constitution (1993). LANGO violates the Constitution. [Article 31 recognizes all rights in UN agreements and covenants. Articles 41 and 42 recognize freedoms of assembly, expression and forming associations.]

4) Cambodian Civil Code, still in force, covers all these issues. Why do we need another law which is contrary to the previous one?

5) Since 1979, serious international NGOs did and are doing a great job to help Cambodian people. [The new law would make it harder for them to do work in Cambodia.]

6) Since 1993, serious Cambodian CSOs also did and are doing a tremendous work to set up a real democracy and help the government to develop the country. [This law would make it very hard for grassroots groups to form and might shut down existing CSOs.]

Conclusions: For all these reasons, we don’t want to have this new law, LANGO which is anti constitutional, and not conformed to the international human rights treaties which Cambodia has ratified.

Background of union, association and NGO laws:

banner LANGO

The Cambodian government recently passed a law restricting the actions of associations and NGOs.  The Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO) bans any group from doing any activities in Cambodia without first going through a complex and lengthy registration process with the government.  Even small neighborhood or grassroots groups have to identify 3 founding members, have a physical office, write detailed by-laws, and provide financial documents to the government before they can have a meeting. Violators will be fined, then shut down. The law states that criminal penalties may be imposed on individuals violating the law.

The trade union law similarly interferes with the ability to meet informally to discuss or lobby for better labor conditions or laws. The law went through various drafts over the past several years, but passed the National Assembly right before Khmer New Year 2016. See the law in Khmer.

Such laws violate the Cambodian Constitution and international agreements signed by Cambodia. The laws would likely result in denying anyone the chance to freely associate with others whose views are not in line with official government positions.