What Prevents an Easy Understanding of the Laws, of Information, and of Facts? – Sunday, 14.6.2009

Posted on 19 June 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 616 |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 616

The Preamble of the Cambodian Constitution declares as what kind of country the Kingdom of Cambodia was being established in 1993, saying it is “to restore Cambodia into an ‘Island of Peace’ based on a multi‑party liberal democratic regime guaranteeing human rights and the respect of law.”

Again, according to the Constitution, how is this going to be accomplished?

Article 35:

Khmer citizens of either sex shall have the right to participate actively in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the nation. Any suggestions from the people shall be given full consideration by the organs of the State.

Why is this to be done?

Article 51:

The Kingdom of Cambodia adopts a policy of Liberal Democracy and Pluralism. 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. The legislative, executive, and judicial powers shall be separate.

The Constitution speaks clearly: whatever the National Assembly and the Senate, the Royal Government, and the Judiciary do – they are empowered by the people, and they have to give full consideration to the suggestions coming from the people, as the Constitution in Article 51:

All power belongs to the people.

This week, there was a report in the press that a member a member of the Constitutional Council – the supreme legal institution of Cambodia – again referring to Article 51 of the Constitution which says, ‘The legislative, executive, and judicial powers shall be separate.’

And so he concluded that the appointment of three members of the judicial power – three judges – into positions of the executive power – the government – is not conform to the Constitution.

We have not read that this violation of the separation of the three powers has been rectified. And we assume that this has to be clarified in such a way that the people in general – not only some legal experts – can understand how it was solved. The advice given by Mr. Son Soubert, a member of the Constitutional Council, is clear and can easily be understood: court officials should resign from their positions in the judiciary, when they accept a position in the executive.

It is interesting to consider what the third president of the USA, Thomas Jefferson, known internationally as the main author of the 1776 US Declaration of Independence from England, which was also based on the opinion of the people as the foundation of the government in a democratic regime. How is the communication of the opinion of the people to the government achieved? He wrote, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that everybody should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

There were several reports during the week which are difficult to understand in this respect.

Formerly, there had been reports that visitors to Angkor Wat were surprised to see that lights were installed in some sections of the temple, and they assumed that this was done by drilling holes into the stones to fix the lamps.

Later, it was denied that new holes were drilled – but it was explained that old, existing holes had been used for the fixing of the lamps.

But the president of the Khmer Civilization Foundation, had had expressed his opinion that drilling holes into the Angkor Wat structures is damaging – after his statement was published he was to be taken to court by the government – but he fled the country in fear.

Then another paper reported: “Lights Installed to Lit Angkor Wat Temple during the Night Are Removed Quietly.” Why?

However, the President of the National Assembly is reported to have agreed to invite the Minister at the Council of Ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who is also heading the Angkor Authority, in charge of preservation of the Angkor cultural heritage, to clarify to the National Assembly what was the plan and what has happened related to bringing electricity to the most important cultural heritage site of the country.

More recenty, the Prime Minister is reported to have underlined the need to take legal action in this case: “If we did not curb the situation on time, what would have happened? They have spread the disinformation via mobile phones, and it could have created a huge turmoil.”

Finally, even the largest newspaper of the country, normally not hostile to the government at all, Rasmei Kampuchea, has been indicted by a government lawyer – probably because they also had reported about the concern about the way in which electricity was to be introduced, though the editor-in-chief of Rasmei Kampuchea was quoted to have said he did not know why a complaint had been filed by a government lawyer against Rasmei Kampuchea: “I don’t know… What do they sue me for?”

This is just one of the cases relating to the judiciary, which was prominently in the press during the last week. Is it a surprise that Cambodian journalists express concern at the sequence of legal actions filed by government officials over allegations of disinformation? It is no surprise that also the international media take this up more and more.

Please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.

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