Civil society organizations in Cambodia started in the 1990s. Various agencies that brought about the civic societies in the country include the UN Transitional Authority (UNTC). What followed was a quick expansion of media outlets such radio, foreign, and opposition newspapers. Since then, the country has been experiencing a sharp rise of the CSO community. The primary factors that were attributed to the fast growth included flexibility of the CSO rules and regulations and external funding. The primary functions of civil society organization involve dissemination of health information, societal integration and progression, social authority, and development of marginalized regions among others. This paper explores the rise of the civil society in Cambodia.
Composition of Cambodia Civil Society
The NGO Forum in Cambodia reveals that the principal aims of the existence of the civil society in the country are provision of policy advices, delivery of services, advocacy, facilitation of dialogues, and promotion of social consciences such as human rights (Marston 54).
Agencies such as the Cooperation Committee of Cambodia (CCC) collaborate with various NGOs and donors with a view of monitoring and ensuring the progress of activities such as social welfare and development. Other organizations collaborating with CSOs in the country include the health sector’s MEDiCAM that comprises 115 active CSOs and the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), which is made up of 21 CSOs dealing with democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in the country (Marston 31). The Cambodia Grassroots People’s Assembly (CGPA) organizes all informal grassroots networks. The informal group comprises diverse members of the society including activists, artists, singers, farmers, and singers among others (Marston 37). International donors fund CSOs in the country. The donors are international NGOs, foundations, or governments (Ung 76).
The Government and Civil Society
The government of Cambodia has a dominant influence on the activities of the country. Due to the significant magnitude of influence, the constitutional laws governing the democratic rights of people do not have full power (Ung 87). According to Marston, Cambodia has no legislations governing the operations of CSOs (54). However, the constitution recognizes civil organizations. Despite their legal recognition, no proper guidelines and processes have been set up for registering civil organizations (Marston 54).
Operations of the Civil Society
Some of the recent movements and activities of CSOs and NGOs include calls for NGOs to work in city slums that they described as improper living zones. They are also concerned with excluding the urban poor, women rights activists storming the National Assembly and Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) headquarters demanding for female representation in National Election Committee, pressure to discuss NGOs law in the National Assembly, and the quest for human rights protection among other functions (Marston 23).
However, a significant shortcoming in Cambodia is that people are deprived of various privileges such as autonomous expression of their needs. Marston reveals that the ruling bodies exercise free power over the country’s media outlets (36). The government has also been undermining democracy and constitutional laws through social injustice, land right violations, and killing of activists among others (Marston 37).
Ung posits that the influence of the media has been impactful on instigating political and democratic reforms in the country (89). In 2012, the number of Social Media users was 740,000. This figure comprised a large percentage of Facebook users. According to Marston, there are approximately 24 million phone and computer users in Cambodia (56). This situation has facilitated information sharing without government control. For instance, voters share information concerning their political views freely. Moreover, people can mobilize others in an attempt to address social issues such as poverty, democracy, and security among others.
Despite the stringent policies exercised by the CPP, its current state of political influence in the country is declining. This situation is clearly depicted in the increasing popularity of the opposition party, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). This state of play has forced the CPP to form a coalition government with CNRP. However, issues of vote rigging emerged with many Cambodians seeking investigations of the elections (Marston 53). A majority of the members who initiate change in the country’s politics are the youth and urban dwellers. Those seeking change raise issues of poverty, corruption, land grabbing, nepotism, and democracy. Their efforts are seen to bear fruits from the remarkable changes in the country’s politics and sprouting democracy (Ung 200).
In reality, the growth of the civil society and NGOs working for democracy has posed a significant threat to the ruling party. The impact of media has also contributed to the situation immensely. Although the government seeks to control the flow of information to citizens, it is only limited to TV and radio stations. Most Cambodians have embraced the media due to the increased number of internet and mobile subscribers. The measures have initiated a political and democratic reform. Therefore, there is a probability of changing some of their stringent policies that undermine the constitutional laws on human rights and democracy due to the mounting pressure on CPP.
Marston, John. Anthropology And Community In Cambodia: Reflections On The Work Of May Ebihara. Victoria, Australia: Monash Asia Institute, 2011. Web.
Ung, Loung. First They killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia remembers. New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 2006. Web.