King Norodom Sihamoni on Wednesday issued a royal decree ordering the appointment of Minister of Justice Koeut Rith to the Supreme Council of Magistracy.
The King, at the same time, revoked the membership of former Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana who was named to the Council in November.
The law on the organisation and the functioning of the Supreme Council of Magistracy – Chapter 2, Article 4 – stipulates that the Supreme Council of Magistracy is under the authority of the King.
According to legal experts, the shakeup is in accordance with the law.
The body comprises the Minister of Justice, the chief of the Supreme Court and the general prosecutor to the Supreme Court as members. All members of the Council are appointed by royal decree.
The justice minister proposed a draft decree to the King requesting the appointment.
Lawyer Sok Sam Oeun said on Wednesday that the act of putting an end to Vong Vathana’s membership and appointing Rith is because when the new minister came into power he was automatically a member.
“As long as the work of the members is known it is transparent. If it is not known, how will transparency be shown? We would not know about the strengthening of legal independence through the body. It is a mix of politics and law,” Sam Oeun said of the Council.
The Council is a technical one and preferably there are many politicians.
Ministry spokesman Chin Malin confirmed on Wednesday that the appointment of Rith had taken place according to the law on the organisation and the functioning of the Council.
“Changes to this role are a general administrative formality to fulfil the legal conditions because the law stipulates that the Minister of Justice acts as a member of the body.
“So, whoever becomes the Minister of Justice, he or she has to be appointed a member to the body,” he said.