Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

CENTRAL To Be Audited on July 15, National Audit Authority Collects Bank Information

About 70 unionists protested in front of CENTRAL’s office in Phnom Penh on June 14, 2024. (CamboJA)
About 70 unionists protested in front of CENTRAL’s office in Phnom Penh on June 14, 2024. (CamboJA)

The National Audit Authority (NAA) will conduct an audit of the Center for Alliance of Labor Human Rights (CENTRAL) on July 15 following a request from the Interior Ministry on June 28.

It will collect information to prepare an audit plan and conduct the exercise on CENTRAL in compliance with law and regulation from 2021 to 2024, NAA said in a statement on July 5. The audit is in accordance with the Cambodian Public Audit Standards and General Audit Standards.

This audit was being conducted at the request of the Ministry of Interior after the latter notified CENTRAL to provide information on all their Cambodian bank accounts within 30 days from June 28.

The notification by the ministry mentioned that it received complaints and views by various unions, federations and associations in relation to CENTRAL’s report titled Barriers to Representation: Freedom of Association in Cambodia, which was criticized as being “biased and unfair”.

The complaints stressed that a “minority assessment of the overall situation (by CENTRAL) did not reflect the reality of trade union freedom in Cambodia”. The report also allegedly “dishonored the nation”, “affected job stability” and the common interests of workers in Cambodia.

CENTRAL program manager Khun Tharo confirmed receiving the letter from the NAA and is studying the relevant laws and regulations stated there.

“CENTRAL will communicate through the administrative and technical framework to cooperate with the competent authorities based on professional principles and in the spirit of high responsibility,” he said.

Tharo did not respond to further questions whether they had submitted the bank information requested by the ministry. The organization’s executive director, Moeun Tola, also did not answer calls or questions via Telegram.

Interior Ministry spokesperson Touch Sokhak told CamboJA News that they requested the NAA to first conduct an audit on CENTRAL based on the Law on Non-Governmental Organizations and the Law on National Audit.

“We also took into account complaints of associations or unions requesting [us] to review the CENTRAL’s cash review activities,” he said, adding that when it comes to issues of justice, everything must be done according to the law.

Last month, CENTRAL issued a clarification of their report. It said Better Factories Cambodia’s (BFC) assessment showed that freedom of association can create a safer and more respectful environment for Cambodian trade unions to operate.

The clarification came after dozens of unions and federations protested against it over its report which allegedly failed to reflect the situation of the freedom association and assembly in Cambodia.

NGO rights group Adhoc president Ny Sokha viewed that the audit was “unusual” because the government auditor does not generally audit civil society organizations. He wondered if there was a problem and why such an audit was being conducted. 

Apparently, his organization, Adhoc, was “never required to undergo an audit”.

“A civil society filed [a complaint] against another civil society and if the ministry makes use of that complaint to take action, it means that civil societies face risks in the future,” Sokha said.

Although he agreed that it was the right of a union or NGO to be dissatisfied with CENTRAL’s report, they should first study their own report and compare it with the latter’s report. He also suggested that they refrain from calling for legal action.