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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bar president challenges Constitutional Counselors

Bar president challenges Constitutional Counselors

CAMBODIA'S top lawyer is calling on the National Assembly to review the academic

credentials of its appointees to the Constitutional Council and has called the appointment

of three other appointees to the council "illegal".

Say Bory, head of the Cambodian Bar Association, says Assembly President Chea Sim

should look at the qualifications of the Assembly's three appointees, and "if

mistakes have been made, it is not shameful or disgraceful, but we must agree together

to correct the mistakes".

"This is a serious matter that we cannot ignore," he wrote in a June 8

letter to Chea Sim. "To protect the prestige and honor of the Constitutional

Council in national and international eyes, it must be seen as reliable and functional."

The Post saw supporting documents for all three Assembly appointees. The file on

Yang Sem, 55, includes mention of a bachelor of arts in economics from California

State University dated 1997. However, his biography states he studied at the school

between 1963 and 1968.

Contacted by the Post, Yang Sem did not explain the 29-year gap between completion

of his studies in California and the awarding of his degree.

He did say, however, that he had obtained an economics degree because he knew he

needed it to sit on the council.

"The degrees required to be a member of the Constitutional Council are diplomatic,

legal and economic, and if I do not have an economic degree, how can I qualified?"

he asked.

Son Chhay, a parliamentarian loyal to the Sam Rainsy Party, also asserted that the

1997 diploma shows Yang Sem does not have the necessary 15 years professional experience

to sit on the council.

The biography of Binh Chhin states that he satisfies the necessary conditions required

by the Constitutional Council law, but there was little specific proof that he had

graduated from the institutions witnesses said he had attended.

Binh Chhin refused to answer questions about his credentials, saying they need not

be shown to the public. "The law only stipulates that appointees need show their

certificates to the Assembly's permanent committee. If anyone wants to know, they

should go ask the National Assembly."

Former Undersecretary of State for Commerce Top Sam, who claims to have a degree

in economics, and whose file appears to have similar documentation shortcomings,

left the June 15 inaugural council session before he could be questioned about his


One independent observer said that while the other two appointee's credentials were

dubious, Top Sam is widely believed to have a degree in commerce.

"There are questions," acknowledged Prak Sok, a former CPP member on the

Constitutional Council who was appointed by the Supreme Council of Magistracy. He

said he could not vouch for other members of the council and suggested that further

investigations be made into their background.

"You should also ask the National Assembly. I am only a member. [But] I think

my own qualifications are sufficient as a graduate of the Royal School of Administration,

vice president of the Supreme Court, and an inspector of finance."

Say Bory - who was a National Assembly candidate for one of the Constitutional Council

slots, but who was unable to secure any CPP signatures for his candidacy - called

on Chea Sim to offer proof that the Assembly's appointees have their diplomas.

The allegations are the latest to hit the beleaguered council, which has also faced

opposition accusations of irregularities in the appointment of the three members

nominated by the Supreme Council of Magistracy.

In a separate June 16 note, Bory effectively said all decisions taken by the judicial

oversight body, the Supreme Council of Magistracy, are illegal, including its own


"All decisions taken by the Supreme Council of Magistracy during the two sessions

led by Samdech Chea Sim were illegal, including the nomination of the three Constitutional

Council members," he wrote.

Chea Sim, the King's representative to head the magistracy council, is also a National

Assembly member, which Bory considers to be a clear violation of Article 79 of the


He interprets the law to mean that Assembly membership is incompatible with involvement

in any other governmental institution except the Cabinet of the Royal Government.



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