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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen's 'iron fist' ends up as a slap on the wrist

Hun Sen's 'iron fist' ends up as a slap on the wrist

Eight judges and prosecutors who were either sacked, suspended or transferred under

Hun Sen's "iron fist" judicial reform initiative have been reappointed

by the Supreme Council of Magistracy (SCM) and will be back to work soon.

Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana said the SCM appointed the transferred judges

and prosecutors last month after they had worked inside the ministry for several

months. He added that the SCM was inspecting the "wrongdoings" of several

Phnom Penh Municipal Court judges and prosecutors who were fired or suspended.

"I think this is a good example for other court officials to correct their work,"

Vong Vathana told the Post on June 27.

He said the suspended judges will be back to work soon, but they will be posted away

from their original courtrooms.

"I want to see the feedback after some judges and prosecutors were punished

and blamed," he said.

But a member of the SCM, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the reappointments

involved only the judges and prosecutor who were suspended. The Ministry of Justice

was inspecting the sacked judges and prosecutors before they were proposed to the

SCM for reappointment. The reappointed judges and prosecutors started work at the

new locations from mid June.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the punishments

were not harsh enough. He said the President of the Supreme Court, who chaired the

disciplinary council, should inspect the behavior and morality of these officials,

particularly in regard to the working relationships between investigating and the

presiding judges.

"I don't think these judges and prosecutors are 100 percent clean," Sam

Oeun said.

He said Hun Sen's "iron fist" approach was a good step towards reforming

the judiciary, but that lower-ranking officials have told him it was not clear whether

the suspended officials were released through a formal procedure or simply due to


"This kind of implementation affects the independence of the court procedure

and the suspects," Sam Oeun said, "The court will not dare to release suspects

even if they do not have enough evidence."

Tan Senarong, who started his new work in early June, said he was not suspended by

the SCM or from the Ministry of Justice for any wrongdoing. Instead, he had been

transferred from Phnom Penh Municipal Court to work as a member of a committee on

the laws for judge and prosecutor.

He said that even after he was appointed a judge in Kandal province but he is still

working for the Ministry of Justice one day a week.

"I am happy to be reappointed, I am happy to accept it," said Senarong.

During Hun Sen's court reform campaign - begun in mid-2005 to crack down on irregularities

within the Phnom Penh Municipal Court - Judge Kong Sarith and Deputy Prosecutor Siem

Sok Aun were sacked, Judges Ham Mengse and Hing Thirith and Deputy Prosecutor Khut

Sopheang were suspended for one year and Phnom Penh Municipal Court Chief Prosecutor

Ouk Savuth was given a warning.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Deputy Chief Nop Sophon, and judges Tan Senarong, Boninh

Bonary and Kim Sophoan, were sent to work in the Ministry of Justice until they could

be reappointed elsewhere.

According to the proposal from the Minister of Justice with the agreement of SCM

session, on May 4, King Norodom Sihamoni, president of SCM issued a Royal Decree

that appointed eight judges and prosecutors after they were posted to non-court work

in the Ministry of Justice for about eight months.

The judges and prosecutor reappointed were:

  • Kim Sothavy, judge in the Ministry of Justice, appointed a judge at the Supreme


  • Tan Senarong, former Phnom Penh municipal court judge, appointed a judge at Kandal


  • Khorn Sokal, former Kandal provincial court judge, appointed a judge at Siem

    Reap court;

  • Kim Sophoan, former Phnom Penh municipal court judge, appointed a judge at Sihanoukville


  • Ker Sakhan, former deputy chief at Sihanoukville court, appointed deputy chief

    at Phnom Penh municipal court;

  • Nop Sophon, former deputy chief at Phnom Penh municipal court, appointed deputy

    chief at Siem Reap court;

  • Kong Kuy, former deputy chief at Kandal court, appointed deputy chief at Banteay

    Meanchey court;

  • Yam Yet, former chief prosecutor at Battambang court, appointed chief prosecutor

    at Prey Veng court;

  • Khut Sopheang, former deputy prosecutor at Phnom Penh municipal court, appointed

    in the last meeting as deputy chief prosecutor at Kampong Speu court.



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