Australia Urged to 'Stand Up' For Cambodian NGOs

An Australian political party has urged the country’s foreign minister to publicly stand up for the non-governmental organizations who are facing a crackdown in Cambodia because of their criticisms of a railway project led by the Asian country’s government.

“The Cambodian government are tightening the screws on NGOs that are advocating on behalf of communities being forcibly resettled as part of a troubled AusAID funded project. AusAID is too involved in this project for Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to wipe his hands of the responsibility to stand up for those Cambodian NGOs,” a senator associated with the Australian Greens said in a statement.

The Cambodian government has slapped consecutive warnings on NGOs critical of the railway project. It has also summoned the international group Bridges Across Borders Cambodia and suspended a local group, Sahmakum Teang Tnaut. The warnings and suspensions are believed to be related to a letter sent to the Asian Development Bank president which raised concerns over the Cambodian government’s handling of the project, particularly of the relocation of affected communities.

The actions also came as Cambodia is preparing to pass a new NGO law that human rights groups and advocacy organizations have criticized as too strict.

Meanwhile, the Australian government has defended its engagement in the railway project, stressing that the Cambodian government is responsible for relocation of affected communities. An AusAid spokesperson also maintained the agency has stressed to the Cambodian government that it is expected to honor its commitment to respect the rights of people being resettled because of the project, Radio Australia reports.

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.