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Court officers shifted en masse by ministry

Nearly 80 judges and prosecutors will be transferred to new jurisdictions today in a move that the Justice Ministry maintained would curb corruption, despite more sceptical assessments yesterday from legal observers and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

According to Sam Prachea Manith, chief of cabinet at the Ministry of Justice, 78 court officers will leave their current positions, with some advancing in the ranks and others moving laterally to similar positions in different provinces.

“Judges [and prosecutors] must not be allowed to stay anywhere for a long time because this can breed favouritism that makes it difficult for them to decide the case,” Prachea Manith said.

However, CNRP lawmaker-elect Eng Chhay Eang expressed doubt that the movements would have any effect.

“The movement of judges from one place to another is not deep reform; it is a lie,” Chhay Eang said. “If we want to have deep reform, we must not allow court presidents and judges to be involved in political parties.”

Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun also took a dim view of the moves, saying that changes to the actual structure of the courts would be “a good reform”.

“But if we reform by changing people from one place to another and the work system is still the same, it is not a reform.”

Meanwhile, 40 judges and prosecutors past the age of retirement were granted permission by King Norodom Sihamoni on April 6 to continue working, despite a 2005 royal decree requiring judges and prosecutors to retire at 60, an official at the Justice Ministry has said.

“The reason why the ministry has requested the King allow them to continue performing their work is because they were good people, and have more work experience,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Oeun, the legal expert, said it was common practice in the developed world to allow judges to work on after reaching retirement age as long as they were fit for service, but advised against allowing them to hold leadership positions.

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