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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Don't change the Constitution, implement it

Don't change the Constitution, implement it

T he article by Dr Lao Mong Hay ("The case for Queen Monineath to take the Throne,"

Phnom Penh Post, Volume 5, Number 4) inspires me to make the following comments.

First, I would like to stress that speculation on the Royal succession makes me uncomfortable.

I feel it is indecent to speculate on the death of the Head of State in such an improper

way. And, speculating on general ideas, which are taken out of an existing framework,

is not the most scientific way to deal with public law-related or political science-related

problems.

There is a Constitution. It provides clear and precise guidelines concerning the

King and his succession. With the highest respect for Her Majesty the Queen may I

ask: why spread unnecessary speculation about the succession?

The King reigns. When His Majesty has to leave the country for whatever reason, the

mechanisms contained in the Constitution work very well. They serve as a point of

reference for how the succession could work. Why elaborate on this issue outside

of the existing legal framework?

I am concerned by the way Cambodian leaders and citizens deal with regulations, especially

when they limit their own will or restrict their personal interests.

In an organized modern society, which has democratic standards, the rule of law -

adopted freely and independently by elected representatives - points the way for

everyone to follow. The law applies equally to all people, from the bottom to the

top of society.

Like all others, government officials, civil servants, soldiers, policemen, businessmen

and monks must also respect the law. Nobody is above the law. Lack of respect for

the law creates chaos and anarchy, and fosters criminal activities - such as drug

trafficking, human beings trafficking, racketeering, etc. - as well as corruption

and dictatorship. Respect for the law is the only way to advance the notion of the

public good and to prevent particular commercial and financial interests from intefering

with the development of society and with the rights of individuals.

Among all the laws of Cambodia, one stands above the rest: the Constitution. Adopted

by a special majority of the Members of Parliament in 1993, the Constitution is the

supreme law of the land. All other legal texts - laws, decrees, sub-decrees, etc.

- must be adopted in accordance with the Constitution.

Strict adherence to the tenets of the Constitution is the best guarantee against

all abuses of power. To insist on the respectful implementation of the Constitution

is the first duty of all Cambodian citizens, in particular all politicians and human

rights activists.

But, to me, in Cambodia there is a tradition that when a rule constrains anyone,

the custom is to prevent this constraint by any means. To get around the rules is

the most common way to respect those rules. At all levels of society, cheating is

a way of life. This is probably the greatest weakness in a society which is undergoing

a long and difficult process of reconstruction.

By proposing changes in the Constitution rather than implementating it, Dr Lao Mong

Hay unfortunately follows the same path. People who are committed to the promotion

and implementation of human rights should never suggest, as a means of dealing with

such problems, that the Constitution should not be respected.

Articles 10, 13, 14 of the Constitution provide clear guidelines for how to bring

about the Royal succession. The core mechanism is an institution called "the

Royal Council of the Throne". This body, in its first meeting on 24 September

1993, chose Norodom Sihanouk as the King within the framework of a new Constitution.

Dr Lao Mong Hay, who is afraid that "the country could well face frightening

instability should the Throne Council be divided and not able to elect a new monarch

within seven days", proposes to change the Constitution. To me, this is the

wrong way to deal with a real problem, especially when the Constitution already contains

the solution.

Article 13 of the Constitution says: "The organization and functioning of the

Council of the Throne shall de determined by law".

This is precisely the way to deal with the problems related to succession. Why did

my very good friend Dr Lao Mong Hay fail to elaborate on a provision which he knows

very well? Has he also been conditioned by the Khmer mindset of getting around the

rules?

Two-and-a-half years after the promulgation of the Constitution, the law laid down

in Article 13 has not been presented by the Government or proposed by members of

the National Assembly yet. This is the real problem. And this lack of political will

for a comprehensive implementation of the Constitution seems to me more important

than any ideas for changes to the Constitution.

The 1993 Constitution is very young. It was adopted by the same members of the National

Assembly who are still in power. Several key provisions are still waiting to be implemented

- above all, the creation of the Constitutional Council. It is not the time to change

the Constitution. It is time to implement it and to respect it.

- Raoul Marc Jennar is a political anaylist and compiler of "Cambodian

Constitutions", published by White Lotus in Bangkok.

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