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NGOs petition King over laws

Civil society groups made a last-ditch effort yesterday to stop three controversial judicial laws from being officially promulgated by handing over petitions to the Royal Palace asking King Norodom Sihamoni not to sign off on the bills.

The laws have passed the National Assembly, Senate and Constitutional Council, and now only need royal assent.

Yesterday morning, more than 100 monks, activists and civil society representatives handed over petitions signed by 118 groups to palace representatives, who promised to pass them on to the King.

They also petitioned at several embassies, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Separately, representatives of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute and Gabriela Knaul, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, held a forum to express their “deep concern” about the laws, which they say will undermine judicial independence.

“I humbly appeal to the power of His Majesty the King, as the guarantor of the independence of the judiciary and of the wellbeing of Cambodian society, do not enact these draft laws in their current form,” said Knaul, who is on an unofficial visit.

But government spokesman Tith Sothea insisted the laws had been thoroughly debated.

“We cannot wait longer to satisfy the civil society groups which are always making criticisms,” he said.

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