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Jurists face forced retirement

Official cites list of 40 ageing civil servants to be replaced.

FORTY justice officials from across the country could soon be forced to retire in response to a directive issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen calling for the mandatory retirement age for civil servants to be respected, Hanrot Raken, a member of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, told the Post Tuesday. 

In the directive, issued January 12, Hun Sen called for the retirement of male officials over the age of 60 and female officials over the age of 55, in accordance with laws that have been on the books in some form since 1994.

Kampot court Judge Pech Chhoeut said he had seen the list of the 40 officials in question, adding that roughly 20 of the names were those of judges and prosecutors.

There has not yet been a royal decree calling for the officials to retire, Hanrot Raken said.

Judge Chuon Sunleng, deputy president of the Court of Appeal, said he had heard rumours that he would be forced to retire.

"But I am waiting to see a formal royal decree," he said.

He expressed concern that there might not be enough judges and prosecutors to fill the vacated positions that would result from enforcement of the retirement age, but rights groups officials said this should not be an issue.

Chan Saveth of the rights group Adhoc said "there are many good students" qualified for justice positions.

Sok Sam Oeun, director of the legal NGO Cambodian Defenders Project, said a potential shortage of judges and prosecutors would not make the ministry dramatically less efficient, arguing that other problems - including a shortage of hearing rooms at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court - were holding up operations.

Chan Saveth said healthy judges who are not corrupt should not be forced to stop working, even if they are of retirement age. Only judges who are "not active" and involved in corrupt dealings should be forced to retire, he said. 

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