Thursday, September 8, 2011

Radio Australia re NGO Crackdown. Or, How Work Continues to Distract Me.

Australia asked to defend Cambodian NGOs

Presenter:Joanna McCarthy
Speakers: Lee Rhiannon, Australian Greens Party Senator

Listen to the broadcast here

The Australian Greens want the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to publicly defend the rights of Cambodian Non-Government Organisations facing a crackdown by Phnom Penh.

The Cambodian government warned NGOs after they wrote to the Australian government's aid agency, Ausaid, about the impact of a railway project on local families being resettled.

The resettlement is being managed by Cambodia but Australia has contributed about $US20 million towards the $140 million refurbishment project.

The letter advised Ausaid and its aid partner, the Asian Development Bank, that two children had drowned fetching water at a relocation site due to a lack of proper facilities.

The Greens say these NGOs have been pivotal in highlighting other problems with the resettlement program, including claims of intimidation and forced removal of families.

The warning comes as Phnom Penh tries to pass a new law regulating NGOs, which observers fear is an attempt to silence those critical of the government.

In a written statement, a spokesperson for Ausaid says it closely monitors conditions at resettlement sites and is in frequent contact with the ADB, the Cambodian government and NGOs regarding conditions and the measures needed to improve them.

It adds that the Australian government has repeatedly made it clear to the Cambodian government that it expects it to honour its agreement to protect the rights of those being resettled.

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