A number of Cambodian judges have been handed promotions after securing controversial rulings in cases that directly benefit the ruling party, sparking the ire of Cambodia’s recently outlawed opposition.

In a royal decree signed by the King on December 27, 123 judges and 72 prosecutors were bumped up the ranks of the judiciary, with a pay rise to match, Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin confirmed.

Among the promoted judges was Seng Leang, the investigating judge who secured a guilty verdict for Oeut Ang, known as “Choub Samlab”, or “Meet to Kill”. Ang was convicted for the daylight shooting of political analyst Kem Ley, which several observers viewed as politically motivated and orchestrated by the government.

Kung Lean Meng was also promoted, and has presided over controversial cases involving the imprisonment of human rights defenders the “Adhoc 5”, and of former opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour.

Lean Meng has also been involved in cases against broadcaster Mam Sonando, former Cambodia National Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy and his successor, Kem Sokha, who was jailed in September on allegations of “treason”.

Both Judge Pol Samoeun, who is connected to the case of jailed land rights activist Tep Vanny, and Judge Ros Piseth, who has been involved in cases against Rainsy, outspoken political analyst Kim Sok, and Khmer Power Party leader Souen Serey Ratha, also received promotions.

Meanwhile Ky Rithy, who was involved in cases against Sokha and Sok, was also promoted. Despite the King having previously ordered an investigation into Judge Keo Mony after he questioned a political activist without a lawyer present, he too received a promotion.

Another notable promotion includes that of Kampong Speu Deputy Court Director Men Vannak, who stands accused of drawing a pistol on a disabled employee.

Rainsy, who just last Friday was convicted in a fresh defamation case, said the round of promotions “shows how Cambodia’s existing court is politically subservient, cheap and despicable”.

“It deprives this judiciary of any credibility,” he said. “But it pushes the Cambodian people to revolt against the system.”

CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua, who fled the country fearing arrest in October, said such promotions stemmed from a corrupt system. “It’s part of the culture of total and unquestionable allegiance to the supreme leader. No hope for judiciary reforms, no hope for justice until there’s a fundamental change of such a culture,” she said.

But Malin said that the promotions were due to “achievement”, and were “not based on their networks”.

Boeung Kak representative Chan Puthisak said the promotions were unfair to activists, human rights defenders and the opposition, and only encouraged court officials to follow the ruling party.

Additional reporting by Erin Handley