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Aug 27, 2015

Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations

By TAN Kanika

The Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (the “NGO Law”) was promulgated by his majesty the King on 12 August 2015 after the Constitutional Council had reviewed and confirmed its constitutionality the same day. Prior to the enactment of the NGO Law, the legal status, registration of and ongoing compliance obligations of NGOs were matters left to the practice of governmental authorities, particularly the Ministry of Interior (the “MOI”) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (the “MOFAIC”).

The NGO Law is a relatively concise law (containing only 39 Articles). Notably, it:

   • clarifies the previously-unspecified types of non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”) and other Associations conducting activities in Cambodia (by definition of the Law, there are three types of NGOs and Association: (1) Local NGOs, (2) Local Associations, and (3) International NGOs and Associations);

    •  provides guidelines for the establishment, on-going compliance, and dissolution of such entities;

   •  sets out the basis for the suspension and de-registration of such entities, and the bases on which registration may be denied by the relevant authority;

    •  affords legal personality to such entities; and

    •  identifies the rights, and obligations pertaining to the administrative, financial and resource management of the NGOs and Associations. 

The NGO Law is seen as a welcome legislative development in Cambodia, particularly with respect to its provision of clear legal status for Associations and NGOs. Article 8 of the Land Law (2001) provides that entities that may be owners of land in Cambodia include Cambodian “associations” and “any Cambodian organization which is recognized by law as a legal entity.” Under the new NGO Law, the legal personality of a local Association or NGO is recognized from the date the Ministry of Interior registers it. While the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction would need to set out implementing regulations and procedures for cadastral offices to permit local NGOs to own land, we see the passage of the NGO Law as a major step towards the possibility in the near future.

There are two main ministries in charge of registering Associations and NGOs. Domestic Associations and NGOs are registered with the MOI, and foreign Associations and NGOs are registered with the MOFAIC through the entry into a memorandum of understanding (MOU). Note, however, that for the foreign Associations and NGOs to enter into an MOU with the MOFAIC, they must initially seek letter of support from a relevant ministry in charge of their core activities, for example, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Social Affairs, etc.

It remains to be seen how the NGO Law will be implemented in practice. In relation to local Associations and NGOs, we expect the Ministry of Interior to issue a Prakas providing further details related to the procedures and formalities for the creation and registration of the same.

Should you have any questions with respect to the NGO Law or the establishment of an NGO in Cambodia or should you require further advice or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Non-Governmental Organization Practice Group  Sciaroni & Associates has a long record of representation of international and local NGOs, global development organizations and other public interest entities. We have advised many notable NGOs and various well-known philanthropists on the establishment of and, on-going legal and tax compliance requirements applicable to NGOs, employment structures, and the many major commercial transactions undertaken by them, such as leasing, sale and purchase of property.

Sciaroni & Associates is a leading professional services and investment advisory firm that has been doing business in Southeast Asia since 1993.  Based in   Cambodia with legal offices in  Laos and Myanmar, we provide knowledgeable business insights and experienced guidance to many of the world’s leading companies, financial institutions, governments and international organizations to help maximize the value of their investments.

For more information please visit www.sa-asia.com or contact us at info@sa-asia.com.

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Sciaroni & Associates is a leading professional and investment advisory firm doing business in Southeast Asia since 1993. Based in Cambodia with legal offices in Laos and Myanmar, we provide experienced advice and business insights to many of the world’s leading companies, governments, economic think tanks, global development funds, international NGOs and the Royal Government of Cambodia in accordance with strict international standards.
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