A DRAFT law concerning whether the Minister of Justice should be a member of a
council with wide ranging powers over the Judiciary has become the focus of
intense political debate and division of the parliament along political
In an historic first, Funcinpec members of the National Assembly
have put forward an alternative draft of the Supreme Council of Magistracy law,
due to be tabled before the Assembly in this session.
The Magistracy law
deals with judicial appointments and disciplinary procedures for judges found to
A foreign legal analyst said: "The law governs the
functioning of one third of the government, the judiciary, it is crucial that
legislation covering this area is passed soon."
The controversy began
because the initial draft law included the Minister of Justice, Chem Sngoun, as
a member of the Supreme Council of Magistracy.
The Supreme Council of
Magistracy will be responsible for arbitrating and enforcing the Magistracy law,
thus some Assembly members and legal analysts saw Sngoun's membership of the
council as an undue executive interference in the affairs of the judiciary.
It was Sngoun's department which drafted the Magistracy Law.
issue has divided the Assembly on political lines.
A government source,
requesting anonymity, said: " A CPP party directive has been issued asking party
members to support comrade Snguon's draft."
Thirty-two Funcinpec, BLDP
and Moulinaka memebers have signed a petition supporting the Funcinpec draft,
one MP said: "Article 51 of our Constitution clearly states that the judiciary,
legislature and executive have to be separate, thus it is impossible to have the
Minister on the Council."
"Our aim is not to oppose Snguon, we only want
to ensure that we have a law which conforms with our Constitution."
pointed out that the Snguon is a part of the executive as a Minister, the
legislature as a member of the Assembly, and will now also have power over
"Especially in the last 20 years, our judiciary has virtually
collapsed. It has to be made independent."
Government sources say the
Commission itself became deeply divided on political lines.