Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Emergency law a step closer

Emergency law a step closer

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The state of emergency draft law was approved by all 54 senators at an extraordinary session Friday. Senate

Emergency law a step closer

The state of emergency draft law has reached the Constitutional Council after being approved by all 54 Senators during an extraordinary session on Friday.

With the Constitution stipulating that a state of emergency shall be declared by the King, who remains in China for medical check-ups, its legality and the bill itself would have to be reviewed by the council, Prime Minister Hun Sen and legislators said.

Senate spokesperson Mam Bun Neang confirmed to The Post on Sunday the bill was sent to the council on Friday afternoon.

“The Constitutional Council will start deliberating it on Monday or Tuesday whether it is in line with the Constitution or not. After the review, the council will report to the King. So, I think the draft law will reach the King or Royal Palace [this] week,” he said.

During the Senate’s extraordinary session on Friday, newly appointed Minister of Justice Koeut Rith defended the bill. He said the law would not affect the people’s rights and freedom as claimed by some civil society groups and senior UN rights officials.

“This draft law is not made to restrict citizens’ freedom as criticised by some outsiders, but only to help the country in a state of emergency,” he said.

Four UN rights officials on April 9 sent a four-page communication to the government, expressing concerns over the bill which they said would affect civil rights and freedom if passed in its entirety.

One of the officials, Rhona Smith – Special Rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia – reiterated her concern in a statement on Friday that a state of emergency declared in response to the Covid-19 pandemic “risked violating the right to privacy, silencing free speech and criminalising peaceful assembly”.

“A state of emergency should be guided by human rights principles and should not, in any circumstances, be an excuse to quash dissent or disproportionately and negatively impact any other group,” she said.

Rith stressed that the law will only be used when the country runs into dangers and by no means is aimed at restricting civil rights in normal situations. He said a line needs to be drawn between arbitrarily depriving citizens of their rights and governing the country in a state of emergency.

“Is there any country that has the law to declare a state of emergency without restricting freedom? From the Covid-19 experience, it’s evident that there isn’t any. Some countries impose lockdowns and confine citizens to their homes. This is a travel ban.

“Some countries ban the gathering of more than five people. This is a ban on freedom of assembly. In [democratic] France, for example, can people exercise their rights to demonstrations during this time? No, they cannot. This is a fact,” he said.

Rith said the law is meant to complement and enforce Article 22 of the Constitution, which stipulates that a state of emergency shall be declared by the King on the request of the prime minister and approval by the National Assembly and Senate presidents.

He said currently, there is no other law that can be applied should the King declare a state of emergency.

“After it is signed into law and promulgated by the King, Cambodia will have a [specific] law like other countries around the world. This is not an isolated case as some other nations have already declared a state of emergency to contain the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

He said the only difference is that in other nations, the prime minister or president has the power to declare it without consulting the legislative bodies.

Consisting of five chapters and 12 articles, the draft law sets out formalities, procedures and terms to declare a state of emergency if the country runs into danger and stipulates a maximum 10-year imprisonment for anyone caught breaking it or hindering its enforcement.

Watch video:

MOST VIEWED

  • Gov’t not using EU aid for poor

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday refuted as “baseless”, claims that the government had used financial aid from the EU to implement the programme to identify and support poor and vulnerable people during the Covid-19 pandemic. The prime minister was responding to Roth Sothy, a

  • Thai fence said to prevent illegal crossing

    Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provincial police say Thailand is not invading Cambodia after a series of social media posts about fences being built on the border raised alarms. Banteay Meanchey police chief Ath Khem said on Tuesday the information on social media on Sunday and

  • PM to vet NY holiday dates

    The Ministry of Economy and Finance submitted a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking him to formally set a five-day national holiday from August 17-21 to make up for the Khmer New Year holiday in April that was postponed. Finance minister Aun Pornmoniroth sent

  • Cambodia rejects UN rights claim

    Cambodia's Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva on Friday hit back at David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression after he raised concerns over the repression of free speech and

  • Snaring may spawn diseases

    The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned that snaring of animals has become a crisis that poses a serious risk to wildlife in Southeast Asia and could spawn the transmission of zoonotic diseases to humans. Its July 9 report entitled Silence of the Snares: Southeast Asia’

  • Ex-party leader, gov’t critic named as secretary of state

    A former political party leader known for being critical of the government has been appointed secretary of state at the Ministry of Rural Development, a royal decree dated July 9 said. Sourn Serey Ratha, the former president of the Khmer Power Party (KPP), told The Post

  • Residence cards set for over 80,000 immigrants

    The Ministry of Interior plans to grant residence cards to more than 80,000 immigrants to better keep track of them. The ministry announced the plan on July 10, following the results of an immigration census. “An inter-ministerial committee and many operational working groups have been set up

  • Kingdom produces PPE gear

    Medical supplies from Cambodia have been donated to member countries of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to assist in the fight against Covid-19, said an ADB report published on July 9. The report stated that the supplies were donated as a response to global efforts to

  • Kingdom, US vow stronger ties

    At an academic forum on Saturday to celebrate 70 years of Cambodia-US diplomatic ties, Cambodian researchers and officials expressed hope of encouraging US investments and for that country to deepen and improve its bilateral relations. Held at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, it reviewed the past 70

  • ‘Single Portal’ integrated registration system welcomes nearly 50 firms

    Forty-seven companies have successfully registered via a newly-launched information technology e-business registration platform as of the end of the second week of this month, Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Phan Phalla said. Six ministries and state-run institutions have been integrated into a