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EU diplomat welcomes Cambodia's disputed draft NGO bill

PHNOM PENH, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Outgoing ambassador of the European Union to Cambodia Jean-Francois Cautain on Tuesday welcomed the Cambodian government's decision to establish a law on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Associations, according to a Cambodian government official.

Cautain expressed his welcome during a farewell meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh capital, Kao Kim Hourn, minister attached to Prime Minister Hun Sen, told reporters after the meeting.

"Ambassador Cautain said that because Cambodia is a sovereign state, the country can decide on this NGO law," he said, adding that Cautain just suggested that the law continue to support legal NGOs so that they can continue their activities.

"In sum, Cautain welcomes the creation of this law because this is the government's decision," he said.

For his part, Hun Sen said the law had taken nearly 20 years to be drafted and was approved by the Council of Ministers on June 5.

He said there are two necessities to make this law. Firstly, such law is required by the article 42 of the Constitution and secondly, it is necessary to control the situation of NGOs.

The article 42 of the Constitution stated, "Cambodian citizens have the rights to establish associations and political parties. These rights shall be determined by law."

According to the prime minister, in coming weeks, the National Assembly will organize a seminar on the draft NGO law.

The draft bill has drawn criticism from some NGOs, U.S. diplomats, and United Nations agency representatives to Cambodia in recent weeks. They voiced their concerns that the law would impose restrictions on the freedoms of NGOs.

Currently, there are some 5,000 NGOs and associations in Cambodia, including 411 international organizations registered with the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, according to government figures.

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