King Norodom Sihamoni (R) greets Prime Miniser Hun Sen on Independence Day last year in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post
A long-dormant proposal to create an executive governmental body with oversight of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces is back on the National Assembly’s agenda.
In the coming days, according to a high-ranking government official who declined to be named, lawmakers will consider a draft law to create a Supreme Council of National Defence.
King Norodom Sihamoni would preside over the newly formed body, with Prime Minister Hun Sen serving as deputy president.
A statement about the draft law, which was approved by the Council of Ministers at the end of last week, describes the Supreme Council of National Defence as being responsible for safeguarding the constitution, national independence, sovereignty, the territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the military.
Though the Cambodian constitution laid out the grounds for a defence council when it was drafted in 1993, the specifics are only now being worked out now.
The proposed governmental body would appear to oversee the military in the same way that the Supreme Council of Magistracy monitors the courts system.
In the draft law, there are six chapters and 11 articles, but the statement from the Council of Ministers did not give specific numbers on how many officials will make up the body.
Son Soubert, a former member of the Constitutional Council and now an adviser to King Norodom Sihamoni, said that the establishment of the new defence body is useful, but it must be independent.
The fact that Hun Sen has a role, he said, indicates that it will be under political pressure.
“When Mr Prime Minister Hun Sen is in this body, it means that the power is not divided clearly. It means that the executive body interferes in the Supreme Council of National Defence,” Soubert said.
Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann agreed.
“The establishing of this body is good, but we wait to see if the composition of these leaders is neutral,” he said. “Because based on the law, the armed forces must be neutral and not under the influence of any political party.”
Public information officers at the Council of Ministers declined to comment yesterday.
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