Prime Minister Hun Sen lashed out at civil society groups yesterday, calling their requested input on the Council of Ministers’ recently approved judicial draft laws unnecessary at best and unconstitutional at worst.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony for National Institute of Education students in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen strongly criticised civil society organisations’ insistence that they be consulted on the three laws, which will have a fundamental impact on the structure and functioning of Cambodia’s courts. He maintained that the constitution has no provisions about seeking input from outside sources.
“The law stated in the constitution does not allow us to offer [these draft laws] to anyone besides sending it to the Council of Ministers, [and] the Council of Ministers sends it to the parliament.”
“Please, some of you are shameful,” he continued. “When [the government] does not do something, it is said that they do it so slowly. When they do something, it is said that they do it too quickly. . . . Oh my god.”
The passage of the laws in question has been, by turns, both slow and quick, with the laws languishing at the Council of Ministers for some 10 years before being passed in a flurry of secretive activity in the past few months.
Civil society has questioned the lack of transparency around the laws, with legal expert Sok Sam Oeun maintaining that they would undermine the already widely questioned separation of Cambodia’s judicial and executive branches.
Hun Sen went on to say yesterday that civil society needn’t worry about the laws’ passage, as the Cambodian People’s Party’s quorum in parliament – which the opposition is still boycotting – meant there were no obstacles to the bills’ approval. CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap agreed, saying it “is not necessary to ask anyone [for anything] more”.
However, Ny Chakrya, head of Adhoc’s human rights and legal aid section, maintained that such important laws should be decided with universal input, and not by any one party.
“There is not any law offering us the right to make decisions or pass laws, but there is also not any law banning civil society from making proposals,” Chakrya said. “When we make a law in a democratic country, we must discuss it together so that this law can be used properly.”