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Gov’t issues judge, prosecutor wage increase, critics label it ‘insufficient’

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A man walks outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Hong Menea

Gov’t issues judge, prosecutor wage increase, critics label it ‘insufficient’

The government has issued a sub-decree increasing judges’ and prosecutors’ monthly salaries by a minimum of 300,000 riel ($74). Analysts said the rise is insufficient and judges should receive at least $2,000 per month to ensure adequate provision of justice.

The sub-decree, dated last Friday and signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, was released by the Ministry of Civil Service on Tuesday. It is effective from the beginning of April.

The sub-decree said the salary of the head of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court’s chief prosecutor would remain unchanged.

Their salary will stay at 10 million riel, as stated in a 2016 sub-decree.

However, the monthly pay of the deputy head of the Supreme Court will increase from 4.5 million riel to 4.8 million riel, while judges at the Court of First Instance will receive 3.3 million riel – up from three million.

The salaries of provincial deputy court directors and provincial prosecutors will increase from 3.2 million riel to 3.5 million, while provincial judges’ salaries will be upped from three million riel to 3.3 million.

The sub-decree said judges and prosecutors who are transferred to the provinces without accommodation being provided will receive an additional accommodation allowance of approximately $100 effective from the beginning of next year.

According to the 2016 sub-decree, this allowance covers, amongst other things, accommodation, change of workplace and medical care.

Preap Kol, the executive director of anti-corruption NGO Transparency International Cambodia, said judges should receive at least $2,000.

He said a proper salary was one of the most important factors that contributed to reducing corruption.

“Besides a decent salary, it is important to ensure the judges’ independence, starting with a competitive selection process and a stipulation that judges must not be aligned to a political party or be influenced by politics in any form,” Kol said.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said that without providing magistrates with adequate resources to carry out their work, the pay rise would do little to help them deliver justice.

“If they are not prohibited from being members of a political party and engaging in political activity if they are used as government tools, if they don’t respect their constitutional independence, and unless all forms of interference in their work are penalised, it will not be effective,” Mong Hay said.

The Post could not reach Ministry of Justice spokespersons Chin Malin or Kim Santepheap for comment.

Government spokesperson Phay Siphan said corruption could not be stopped merely by increasing judges’ salaries. It is also necessary to strengthen codes of conduct and professionalism, he said.

“Justice is based on questions of fact and law, not on money,” Siphan stressed.

Hitting back at the analysts’ comments, he said any citizen, including judges, could be a member of any political party if they wished to.

“Judges must adhere to the codes of conduct and make decisions based on facts and the law. Judges who make decisions not based on facts and the law will be punished."

“We haven’t seen a high profile case of punishment, but we are currently implementing reforms in the judicial system, and reforms in terms of the judges’ and prosecutors’ responsibilities,” Siphan said.

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