P RINCE Norodom Ranariddh has for the first time publicly questioned the Cambodian
People's Party dominance of the justice system, and called for the urgent establishment
of the Constitutional Council.
The Funincpec leader and First Prime Minister said last week that he was negotiating
with CPP to have at least one judge appointed by Funcinpec.
He said he had told Second Prime Minister and CPP leader Hun Sen that it was not
fair that everyone in charge of the judiciary was CPP-appointed.
Ranariddh also strongly criticized the justice system, saying that it was corrupt
and could not be relied upon for justice by "the poor people."
He urged that the Constitutional Council and the Supreme Council of Magistracy -
the top bodies provided for in Cambodia's Constitution - be set up "as early
Ranariddh's statement followed comments by one of the King's top advisers, Nhiek
Tioulong, that the lack of a Constitutional Council meant the Government and the
National Assembly was functioning unconstitutionally.
Speaking to journalists in the grounds of his house on Oct 12, Ranariddh said: "As
a Prime Minister, I am not happy with our justice [system]. What the justice is running
today is not satisfactory to me, maybe satisfactory to others but not to me."
But Ranariddh said it was Funcinpec's own problem that because it had no judges it
could appoint no-one to the Supreme Council of Magistracy.
"To be frank, I am now dealing with the CPP [to ask] that on the Supreme Court
and so on there should be one representative from Funcinpec."
Two years after the coalition government was formed there were "only CPP"
judges and "we should have at least one."
"If we have one we can appoint that man to be a member of the Supreme Council
of Magistracy. Immediately, the second step [will be] to set up the Constitutional
"It is in the interests of Cambodia to set up those two bodies which are very
important as early as possible.
"Yesterday I told Samdech Hun Sen that [of the people] in charge of justice,
there is no-one coming from Funcinpec. I think this is not very balanced on the one
hand. On the other hand Funcinpec cannot appoint anyone if we are not part of the
Ten months after a law governing the Supreme Council of Magistracy was passed by
the National Assembly - following repeated criticism that it would entrench the judiciary
in CPP hands - the body has yet to begin functioning.
The law provides for a nine member council made up of the King, the Minister of Justice,
the Chief Judges and Prosecutors of the Supreme Court and the Appeal Court and three
judges elected by the judiciary.
Minister of Justice Chem Snguon recently announced the "temporary" appointment
of the three judges - one whom is no longer a judge but a senior ministry official
- until an election can be held.
The Supreme Council of Magistracy, once it begins work, will nominate three members
of the Constitutional Council. A further three will be picked by the King.
The last remaining three are to be nominated by the National Assembly. Under an initial
deal, Funcinpec, CPP and BLDP were to nominate one each.
Political observers, however, say the CPP later argued it should appoint two of three
National Assembly nominees, and BLDP none.
Ranariddh said the Supreme Council of Magistracy was urgently needed, not only to
clear the way for the Constitutional Council but to ensure "very strict discipline"
The Prime Minister was scathing about the state of justice in Cambodia, saying it
was "not acceptable."
He accused judges of accepting "big money" from businessmen charged with
smuggling offenses to acquit them.
Meanwhile, there were many other cases where criminals had not been punished harshly
enough by the courts.
He cited a Stung Treng murder case where a convicted killer received a four-month
suspended jail sentence.
"How can you afford to do something like this?" Ranariddh asked.
"The poor, small people have to be protected....I think that the poor people
will not be protected by the law and the court."
Khmer Institute of Democracy president Dr Lao Mong Hay praised Ranariddh's calls
for the two councils to be formed soon, and said the Prince was "doing the right
Mong Hay said most important was that the magistrates' council comprise competent,
"Ideally, for the sake of the rule of law and of the whole nation, we should
have members who have no links with any party.
"But we cannot do that. It's impossible because the appointments are made by
Meanwhile, Ranariddh has backed off his recent call for the dealth penalty to be
reintroduced in Cambodia for serious crimes, after his suggestion was opposed by
his father, King Norodom Sihanouk.
"We have to abide by what His Majesty the King has decided," Ranariddh
The King, in two recent statements, strongly opposed the prospect of Cambodia's constitution
being amended to allow the death penalty.