Well, it’s just another story that didn’t go published in the media. T-T
The Cambodian government has chosen civil society representatives to attend the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh next month sparking outrage among civil society groups who have come to regard the selection process as unfair and voice-stifling.
The choice of representatives for civil society groups in Cambodia by the Royal Government for the ASEAN summit next month has stirred a tempest in the teapot.
Several civil society groups have expressed dismay over the choice of representation made by the government. These organizations feel that the current candidates are not truly the face of the non-government organizations in the country.
Furthermore, some of the NGOs have called the selection process as unfair and biased, and have stated that the government has prevented mainstream organizations and critical voices from being heard on an international stage. They claim that the organizations nominated by the government are obscure and unheard of in the civil society circles. These organizations are likely to be more empathic towards government views.
The current nominees from Cambodia are Huoy Sochivanny, head of Positive Change for Cambodia and Sok Theavuth, head of the Cambodian ASEAN Youth Association.
Theary Seng, the founder of Centre for Cambodian Civic Education (CIVICUS) and former director of Centre for Social Development (CSD),spoke to Asia360news and labelled the developments as a “facade of sham representation for civil society where the Cambodian people will not be well-represented at the ASEAN summit, which is supposed to be a place where regional issues are addressed and solved.”
“It is shameful and deeply unfortunate that the Cambodian government continues to be disingenuous with the Cambodian people and deprives us of genuine representation at the ASEAN meeting. These NGOs are really GONGOs or the oxymoronic ‘government non-government organizations.”
The head of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, Ou Virak told Asia360news: “It is not right for the government to select representatives unilaterally. They should have let the civil society groups to gather and select representatives among themselves.”
Civil society representatives from the ASEAN region are expected to meet on 3 April 2012 in Phnom Penh. The government has since attempted to sideline the issue of nomination of representatives by telling the other nine ASEAN nations to nominate the representatives themselves rather than go through the ASEAN Civil Society Conference and the ASEAN People’s Forum which is the accepted protocol.
Khus Thida, head of the planning committee for the ASEAN Civil Society told Cambodian local media that as a rule, the selection of NGO representatives has to be followed through the ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC).
“I think that only NGOs that don’t criticise the government have been chosen so that no sensitive issues might be raised during the ASEAN summit and so that Cambodia will not look bad in front of other members,” she was quoted by Raksmey Kampuchea Daily.
Independent ASEAN activists have said that they will boycott the ASEAN summit meeting between civil society representatives and the regional leaders on the ground that the conditions set by the Cambodian government are not consistent with the established protocol. The Cambodian Council of Ministers bears direct responsibility for the nomination issue.
Cambodia’s civil society groups form a powerful voice of dissent in the political and economic sphere as the country receives a large amount of aid from foreign donors who seek greater involvement in the political process.
Although many of these organizations are perceived positively in the Cambodian society, they are also looked upon as instruments in foreign hands for sowing dissent. In the recent years, the Cambodian government has sought to actively make these organizations more accountable and to neutralize their involvement in politics.
Note: What do you think about what the Cambodian government has done? Your opinion is appreciated.