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
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...
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
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
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
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
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.