Cambodian Minister’s Letter Proposes Crackdown on NGOs

Posted September 22nd, 2011 at 1:35 am (UTC-5)
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A letter signed by Cambodia's finance minister suggests the government should act against relief groups that have been advocating on behalf of displaced villagers.

The June 17 letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen, obtained by VOA's Khmer service, suggests the government “nullify the eligibility” of the NGOs. It says the main goal of the groups is to cancel work on a major upgrade of Cambodia's railways that would link much of Southeast Asia to Kunming, China.

The letter says an unidentified consultant with the Asian Development Bank, which is backing the $146 million project, had asked the government to take immediate action against the NGOs.

However an ADB spokesman told the German news agency DPA it has investigated and found no evidence of misconduct by any of its consultants. The bank told VOA this week it will continue to work with villagers who are being displaced by the railway project.

VOA's attempts to reach Finance Minister Keat Chhon on Wednesday were unsuccessful, and a finance ministry official said he had “no idea” about the letter.

However two NGOs working with residents along the rail line suffered government action in the weeks after the letter. One group was suspended by the Ministry of Interior and the other, Bridges Across Borders, received a reprimand from the foreign ministry.