A SENIOR government official on Thursday rejected a report issued by the World Justice Project (WJP) placing Cambodia second lowest globally in its 2019 Rule of Law Index, labelling the ranking as biased, unscientific and politically motivated.
The government’s reaction came after Washington based WJP on Thursday released their index ranking Cambodia 125 out of 126 countries, above only Venezuela and below the likes of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan.
The WJP index measures a country’s rule of law performance based on eight factors. They are constraints on government powers, the absence of corruption, open governance, fundamental citizen rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice.
The top three performing countries were Denmark which came in first, Norway second, and Finland third.
The report ranked Cambodia 124th for constraints on government powers, 125th for the absence of corruption, 124th for open governance, 117th for fundamental citizen rights, 87th for order and security, 124th for regulatory enforcement, 126th for civil justice and 124th for criminal justice.
“This slide in rule of law in general and checks on government power, in particular, is deeply concerning,” said World Justice Project’s executive director Elizabeth Andersen on the situation in Cambodia.
However, Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin questioned Cambodia’s extremely low ranking in the WJP’s scoring of democracy, rule of law, justice and law implementation.
He said other higher-ranking countries have one political party, no elections, poor human and political rights and even military juntas in power.
“The evaluation is not scientific and does not reflect the reality of Cambodia’s progress in comparison with other countries in the region. Some countries that are in worse situations than Cambodia get a better ranking."
“The evaluation is not comprehensive. It seems to depend on only one factor – a country’s political situation – and does not take into account general levels of freedom and institutions successfully working with the rule of law, democracy and justice,” Malin said.
He expressed the belief that since the ranking is politically motivated, it would embolden Cambodia’s opposition parties. Besides, the low ranking is also an attempt to “downgrade Cambodia’s reputation on the international stage”, he said.
The Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute director-general Kin Phea said the WJP index was biased and unfair.
“We can see that if some NGOs, which are based in the US and Western nations, want to discredit a country or find its flaws, they make reports which give similar low scores in a systematic way,” Phea said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the index was biased in favour of Western countries.
“The evaluation does not reflect the reality in Cambodia and we cannot recognise it as a legal one. It is an evaluation from outside that does not reflect reality,” he said.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan also said the report is politically motivated and designed to attack the government. He said if the rule of law was not good, there would be a rebellion or colour revolution.
“We are building and enhancing democracy step-by-step based on the rule of law. We are strengthening social justice . . . We can’t accept the report. It is a politically motivated evaluation and we only want our country to be independent and sovereign,” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said that to the best of his knowledge, WJP has its own monitors in the country and has a set of objective indicators and grading that are applied equally to all countries.
“It is very difficult to challenge the WJP findings and ranking unless our Ministry of Justice wants to confront their ranking criteria one by one,” he said.