Newly-appointed Minister of Justice Koeut Rith has vowed to continue implementing policy reforms to improve the quality of the judicial system and build public confidence.
He made the remarks at his swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday.
King Norodom Sihamoni issued a royal decree appointing Koeut Rith as Minister of Justice, replacing Ang Vong Vathana, who had held the position for 16 years. The King also ordered Vathana to be appointed Senior Minister in charge of Special Missions.
Before he was sworn in, Rith said he would continue to strengthen and expand the achievements of prior reforms in the interest of the judicial sector and the nation.
He also committed to letting good governance serve as the core of the judiciary and guaranteed internal solidarity.
“I vow to strengthen the integrity and accuracy of the work of judicial officials by strengthening discipline and professional ethics in this sector by promoting the honour and dignity of the courts.
“To achieve all these goals, I hope the senior leadership and officials of the Ministry of Justice, judicial officials at all levels and other relevant officials will take an active part in strengthening the rule of law in Cambodia,” he said.
Vathana said at the ceremony that Rith had learned a lot about the work of the judicial sector, having worked with him for more than one term.
He expressed hope that Rith would gain support from the ministry’s leadership and receive energetic and sincere participation from officials at all levels.
“I would like to support Rith in his mission to faithfully address all the challenges before him,” he said.
Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said Rith would continue addressing human resource shortages in the justice sector, just as the ministry had been doing before his appointment.
A rising imbalance between court cases and the number of judicial officials, he said, is one of the challenges to be addressed.
“A backlog of cases at the tribunal and the judiciary is more complicated, especially after the fourth anti-drugs campaign was put into motion successfully. The number of detainees has increased drastically, and we have not yet addressed it decisively,” he said.
He further said that as of Monday, there were 38,990 detainees in the Kingdom, including 2,593 women.
There are 4,725 accused persons in the Kingdom and 10,066 have been charged with a crime, said Sar Kheng.
The Kingdom has 13,402 accused, of which 903 are women. Of the total, 996 face outstanding appeals cases, 131 face outstanding Supreme Court cases, and 12,305 are waiting for a verdict from the Supreme Court.
Sar Kheng said there are 10,197 convicts in the country, of whom 726 are women.
Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP) executive director San Chey told The Post on Thursday that before his appointment, Rith was a legal expert.
When he took his new position, it was seen as a politically motivated move, Chey said.
He said he wanted to see more adherence to the legal system, rather than political landscapes, lest the judiciary in Cambodia declines further.
“In the past, indecisiveness between the justice system and politics had been under criticism. We find that nothing is bad if the expert becomes the politician in a senior body. In reality, the office of the secretary of state is also a political one.
“Until now, we have not yet achieved an independent justice system. But [we] have to look at the balance between executive and judicial powers,” Chey said.