Civil society representatives said they will petition parliament in the coming days to consider amending the constitution to limit prime ministers to two terms in office.
Speaking at a roundtable discussion organised by election monitor Comfrel yesterday, political analyst Kem Ley said having no restrictions on terms in office would lead to more corruption.
“Being in office for a long time can create more nepotism, corruption and an absolutist regime,” he said. “When there is an autocratic regime the leader has the power and desire to topple groups who want to protest and express themselves.
“If we cannot restrict the prime minister’s term we will need to campaign and tell people not to support him.”
The discussion, which included speakers from Comfrel, the Cambodian Defenders Project, and Gender and Development Cambodia, centred on amending Article 119 of the constitution to add a clause limiting the prime minister’s term of office to a maximum of 10 years.
Political analyst Sok Touch echoed Ley’s comments.
“Prime Minister [Hun Sen] is bigger than the constitution because he can change the constitution and can create a new one,” he said.
Hun Sen first became prime minister in 1985 and has held power ever since, briefly sharing it with Prince Norodom Ranarridh from 1993 to 1997.
Ny Chakrya, head the human rights and legal aid program at rights group Adhoc, said Hun Sen has acted as a president for life since he came to power.
“Our prime ministers have more power than other countries’,” he said.
Koul Panha, executive director of Comfrel, claimed that “officials in the Cambodian People’s Party also want to restrict the prime minister’s term … but they do not dare to speak out publicly.”
Nhem Thavy, a CPP lawmaker and National Assembly spokesman, said that because limiting the term of the office of premier was not in the July agreement between the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party and the CPP, it would not be up for discussion.
CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha yesterday lent his support to the proposal.
“I and other [CNRP] lawmakers have to continue to demand [term limits] so that Cambodia can reach a point where all politicians can compete for the confidence of the people with fairness,” he said