In the wake of a speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen denouncing civil society’s criticism of the way that three judiciary laws sailed through the Council of Ministers without outside input or transparency, NGOs released an open letter yesterday calling for the Kingdom’s renewed commitment to a democratic legislative process.
“Discussion on the impact of policies should be considered and deliberated among stakeholders to arrive at legislation that will best serve the country,” reads the letter, released by an umbrella group of NGOs, including the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia and the NGO Forum.
During a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education on Monday, Hun Sen lashed out at repeated requests from civil society groups for the government to consider their input on the draft laws.
“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 parliament,” Hun Sen said.
The three laws languished at the Council of Ministers for some 10 years before being passed in a flurry of veiled activity in the past few months.
Opposition lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua characterised the lengthy and “secretive nature” involved in the passage of the draft laws as anything but democratic.
“A draft law in part belongs to the people and civil society groups . . . it must be an open process,” she said.
Ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that enough discussion on the approved judicial draft laws had taken place.
“Civil society groups play an important role with lawmakers but [their role in] passing the laws is different,” Yeap said.
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, described the response of civil society as “unprofessional”.
“The National Assembly is the real guardian of the people . . . these civil society groups are not policeman and we don’t need them. A lawyer cannot fix a car properly, that’s why we have mechanics,”