A SCATHING report from within the Constitutional Council that surfaced Sept 2 in
King Norodom Sihanouk's monthly bulletin adds weight to the opposition's accusations
that the nation's top legal body is biased toward the CPP.
Council member Say Bory, one of the King's three appointee's, wrote the Aug 22 report
to the monarch on the inner workings of the nation's top legal body. His letter confirms
suspicions that the King's appointees have consistently found themselves at legal
odds with the six council members that were pulled from the CPP's ranks by the Supreme
Council of Magistracy and the National Assembly.
The report begins in July with optimism as the Constitutional Council went about
its tasks. "Good work, ambiance, serious and fraternal... logic and wisdom always
present," Say Bory wrote to the King.
But as the council began receiving and deliberating election-related complaints in
August, Say Bory declared the "the hour of truth has rung" and that "July
was too good to be true".
"Violations of law and administrative procedures are more and more perceptible,"
Say Bory wrote, adding that the six council members were making decisions by themselves.
"Clerks and the secretary-general authorized by [council] president Chan Sok,
in agreement with the other five members coming from the CPP, have rejected the complaints
lodged by the opposition parties and have made some declarations while giving some
personal constitutional interpretations... without any consultation with members
named by the King."
Say Bory noted that quorum for the council is set at seven members. Another of the
King's appointees, Son Soubert, told the Post recently that the only way the non-CPP-related
members could influence the nine-member council would be to not show up at the meetings.
Decisions are made by absolute majority.
"In effect, now, there are two councils: the "Council of Six" and
the legal Constitutional Council where the members named by the King can sit,"
Say Bory wrote.
Say Bory, formerly the president of the Cambodian Bar Association, told the King
he did not agree with Chan Sok's decisions to reject some opposition complaints because
they were filed after a 72-hour deadline.
"All the complaints against the provisional results are non-receivable after
the delay of 72 hours," he explained. "On the contrary, the other complaints
are receivable at any moment. The suit concerning the legality of the arithmetic
formula for calculating the allocation of [Assembly] seats is therefore always receivable."
The situation appeared to reach a boiling point in late August when Say Bory confronted
Chan Sok and threatened to quit the council if things did not improve.
"I have expressed to him my disagreement concerning the systematic rejection,"
Say Bory wrote. "I asked him to respect the law on the organization and the
functioning of the CC, while having clearly added that all decisions made outside
of the meetings of the CC are illegal and therefore invalid. If he does not respond
to me, I will be obliged to write him that I can no longer participate."
Say Bory told the Post on Sept 1 that his confrontation with Chan Sok appeared to
have had the desired effect and that improvements had been made.
"My first reaction was maybe more violent," he said the day after the council
ruled to reject all 17 of the opposition's election-related complaints that were
successfully submitted. "After they became reasonable and now respect the law
and the legal rules. This is the reason why I am still in the council... Now it becomes
normal, so no problem."
Although he is bound by the law on the Constitutional Council not to reveal discussions
within the council, Say Bory claimed that his participation should be seen as a barometer
of the council's neutrality.
"If I remain in the council it means the rule of law is not violated,"
he said. "But that does not mean I always agree [with the majority]."
Newest Constitutional Council member Son Soubert, sworn in on Aug 24, also revealed
Although he said he was unable to formulate a complete opinion of the council after
only a few days on the job, he noted that there were some disturbing parallels between
the organization of the Constitutional Council and the National Election Committee,
which has also been accused of ruling-party bias.
Like the NEC, he said the council appears to have hired all its support staff from
the CPP. Some NEC members complained toward the end of the electoral process that
CPP-loyal staffers were ignoring their requests.