A spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has dismissed recent media reports that the Supreme Consultation Forum, which was established following the 2018 national elections, will have its mandate ended due to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s dissatisfaction with its performance.
Chhim Phalvorun, who is also head of the body’s secretariat, told The Post on Sunday that the forum’s mandate is due to last only through the government’s 6th mandate as stated in a Royal Decree on its establishment.
He said this is the normal procedure and denied reports that the body’s planned dissolution was due to the forum doing work beyond its scope and drawing Hun Sen’s ire.
Beyond its mandate
Phalvorun said the forum’s mandate is to compile weekly reports along with recommendations on various social issues for the prime minister for further action.
He cited the example of the forum’s most recent report on forestry crime, which prompted Hun Sen to issue a letter instructing the Ministry of Agriculture and the governors of Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri provinces to take action as suggested by the forum.
Regarding the summoning of ministers, which led to local media accusing the forum of going beyond its mandate, Phalvorun said the forum can only summon a minister through a prior request to the prime minister.
“We submit a letter seeking advice and permission from Samdech [Hun Sen] before inviting a minister. The request is sent through a permanent deputy prime minister, which will be attached with an annotation of approval from Samdech [Hun Sen]."
“The Supreme Consultation Forum then sends the letter inviting a minister to lead a delegation to answer the forum. This is normal procedure, nothing beyond this. We invite a minister as long as Samdech approves. There’s nothing wrong."
“The end of the forum’s mandate is clearly stated in the Royal Decree because the body was also formed through the decree. This working group resulted from the members’ participation in the July 29 elections in 2018 on a voluntary basis, without any coercion,” he stressed.
Through a Facebook post on June 8, Sok Sovann Vathana Sabung, a prominent member of the forum who is also president of the Khmer Rise Party, cited a Radio France International (RFI) report quoting government spokesman Phay Siphan as saying that Prime Minister Hun Sen was dissatisfied with the performance of the forum.
Abuse of power
Siphan reportedly said some of the forum’s members had abused their mandate in summoning ministers, including top national defence officials, for clarification as if they were court judges.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan declined to comment on Sunday and referred questions to Phalvorun.
Political analyst Em Sovannara agreed that ending the Supreme Consultation Forum’s mandate after the government’s sixth mandate is normal procedure.
“I think if the government ends the forum’s mandate, it is also good because this group has not really been effective in assisting the government after its establishment."
“It is more of a financial burden than an asset to the government,” he said.
Sovannara said the government has enough mechanisms and institutions to address pressing social issues facing the country.