Week 534 – Sunday,2007-11-18: Again Dealing with the Law

Posted on 19 November 2007. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 534 |

The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 534

Some people are tired to deal again and again with questions of the role and the rule of law, others appreciate what we often take such questions up in the Mirror, because, obviously, the law is crucial to establish a “society based on the rule of law.” This means that in Cambodia, based on the Constitution, not power and violence decide what is right and wrong. Instead, legally defined procedures show for all citizens – in government, in the courts, in the National Assembly and in local administrative councils, and for citizens in general – a framework within which to function.

The big events of the week in the legal field were, of course, the new steps taken by the Khmer Rouge Tribunal: new arrests, and the preparation of public hearings. We have several translations of related reports.

The announcement of a new draft law by the Ministry of Interior, “which is the most important and the main goal of the decentralization and deconcentration reforms,” surely does not as easily capture public attention. It sounds as if it were only to regulate some technical details of the administration of the country. But its goal is “to strengthen the effectiveness of a unified administrative management system at the lower national level, which the basic goal to improve good governance and local development.” If this law is accepted and put into practice, it will initiate a new era in the history of the country: it will make the system of electing in and electing out people to carry public responsibility to the local level, where the people actually live together, know each other, and can regularly and directly observe how those whom they entrusted with public tasks perform in office.

The next elections for the National Assembly in 2008 are, of course, also an exercise, where the people elect their representatives into the institution which makes new laws and changes old ones, and also decides how the national resources – natural resources and financial resources – shall be allocated. But these processes, though they have a direct impact on the daily life of the citizens, are somewhat more difficult to evaluate from a distance, and require attention and study in order to understand what happenes and why, and what the consequences are.

Some administrative processes will be more and more delegated from the center towards the places where the people live. This is the purpose of the decentralization and deconcentration reforms, dealing with problems faced and solutions sought – and found or not found – which do not happen far away.

When Cambodia will implement this process of bringing democracy to the local level, it will be ahead of a number of other countries in the region and in the world, which have not embarked onto similar new roads. The provision of Article 51 of the Constitution, that “the Cambodian people are the masters of their own country. All power belongs to the people. The people exercise these powers through the National Assembly, the Senate, the Royal Government and the Judiciary” may become more visible. The Ministry of Interior is aware that there are still some legal adjustments necessary, so that the administrative structures at the lower levels are brought into harmony with this new legislation.

Another report reminds us all that whatever good laws we have, they are useful only if the law is followed, and when necessary enforced. The following was also reported during the week:

“Son of a Police General Drinks Nine Mugs of Beer; He Pulls out a Short Gun and Points it at Other People in a Restaurant”

The person who had used a gun to threaten others with a lethal weapon and his friend were arrested. Law enforcement worked, and whenever this happens in response to criminal violence, we can be confident that this society is making fundamental progress.

But then, this hope vanished again: it was also reported that the two perpetrators were subsequently released after a high ranking official had intervened.

The Prime Minister had repeatedly warned that there would be no longer tolerance for such violations of the law, irrespective of the social or military of financial status of the perpetrators or their family members.

We are looking forward to read if, and what kind of continuation these events will have.

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