Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Son Soubert becomes second critic to sit on council

Son Soubert becomes second critic to sit on council

Son Soubert becomes second critic to sit on council

THE Constitutional Council will admit one of its

strongest critics this week, giving it full membership

for the first time as it prepares to rule on a series of

election-related appeals.

National Assembly second vice-president Son Soubert - who

released a statement in June condemning the selection of

some council members - said he still believed the council

was illegally formed, but did not know what else he could

do about it.

"If the whole nation compromises on the question of

legality, how can I correct it alone, all by

myself?" he said. "We have denounced it but no

one takes us seriously... no one cares."

Soubert is taking the place of his father, Son Sann, who

finally quit the council after numerous complaints. In a

May 20 letter to King Norodom Sihanouk, Son Sann wrote:

"The question must be asked: How can an illegal

Constitutional Council decide on the legality of...

elections?"

Asked why he was joining a body his father boycotted and

which he himself believes illegal, Soubert said: "My

father would not compromise and not participate - it

created a problem for the King. So I will do it in his

stead, hoping to do something better - which I

doubt."

Doubts about the neutrality and legality of the council

have persisted since its formation this year. The King

appointed his three nominees years ago but the other six

- all CPP members - were selected hastily by the National

Assembly and in what critics say was an illegal convening

of the Supreme Council of Magistracy.

The King's three original appointees, Pung Peng Cheng,

Son Sann and Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum, all stayed away from

the first meetings, denying it a quorum.

Peng Cheng eventually convened the council and then quit,

ostensibly for health reasons, to be replaced by

Cambodian Bar Association President Say Bory; Cocsal

Chhum joined late; and Son Sann never attended a meeting.

Soubert said he intends to stick to his principles after

being sworn in, and would resign if the body were to act

incorrectly. "I cannot go against my

conscience," he said. "I have to try - but I

have no illusions."

The council now has 15 Funcinpec complaints before it,

including: a request to recount ballots in Kampong Thom;

to rule on whether the official seat allocation formula

is correct; a complaint about intimidation; as well as

one Sam Rainsy Party objection to the NEC's cessation of

vote recounts.

Eighty-five SRP appeals from the National Election

Committee (NEC) were rejected by the council's clerks

because of incorrect documentation while a number of

other new grievances were rejected because of late

filing, councillors said.

About 75 Funcinpec complaints were rejected by the

council because the NEC failed to rule on them, according

to Soth Sothun, deputy director of Funcinpec's law and

human rights board.

Sam Rainsy said the administrative excuses are

undemocratic and politically motivated. "My right to

appeal has been denied by these bureaucratic, Kafkaesque

procedures," he said. "[Council President] Chea

Sok should receive [my complaints] and write a letter.

This is transparent procedure - we are not playing hide

and seek."

However, recent Royal appointee Say Bory said he believes

the council is doing its best. "If I were not

inside, I would be afraid also," he said. "Now

I'm inside, I'm more sure." He said that from what

he had seen so far, the council was acting neutrally and

legally.

Ironically, Bory was also a vocal critic of the council

before his appointment. He questioned the credentials of

several members and raised the question of the legality

of the SCM's appointees, but now says he is satisfied.

"When I complained before, it was from second-hand

knowledge," he said. "I find all the members

are serious and respect the law." He promised that

he and the other King's appointees would speak out if

they detected bias.

Meanwhile, frustrated by the NEC and council bureaucratic

dead-ends, SRP and Funcinpec have decided to take their

complaints to the streets. They are planning an Aug 23

rally at Olympic Stadium followed by a march "to

demand resolution of all complaints about election

irregularities", according to a press release.

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