Knowing – Using – or Disregarding the Law – Sunday, 18.10.2009

Posted on 20 October 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 634 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 634

Discussions about the law, or actions without much awareness or even disregard for the law, are reaching the media regularly, sometimes in increasing numbers – just like now. This reflects, of course, also a general awareness in certain sections of the public.

Whoever mentions the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia is mostly happy about it, and since the introduction of the Senate into to political structures of the country, there was hardly any suggestion that the Constitution should be changed – though there have been repeated pleas that its implementation should be improved. Though one member of the National Assembly is reported to have said recently he regrets that the death penalty is excluded by the Constitution – an opinion quite contrary to international developments during the last decade.

But that does not mean that it is always clear how certain basic statements in the Constitution are to be translated into practice. The conflicts between different mobile phone service providers, going on since a couple of weeks already, have shown this.

The Constitution simply says in Articles 56, 57, and 63:

  • “The Kingdom of Cambodia shall adopt the market economy system.
  • The preparation and process of this economic system shall be determined by the law.
  • Tax collection shall be in accordance with the law…
  • The State shall respect market management in order to guarantee a better standard of living for the people.”

But had it been “determined by law” what, for example, as we mirrored on 15 October 2009, that “Road Tax Checking for 2009 Will Begin on 16 October 2009 Countrywide.” Why only now in October, one might ask – does this boost tax income, or did it delay payments to the state by those who have enough resources to own motorized vehicles?

The charges and payment methods of several old and new mobile phone providers – all supposedly operating according to a market economy system – led not only to confrontative discussions among them, but also to a disruption of certain services: some systems were said to not have forwarded calls to some other systems – the users, the consumers, suffered from these conflicts, so that finally appeals to the government were made to find solutions.

What had happened? Some newer companies had started to offer new fee and payment systems, including free calls between users of the same system, but charging for calls to others networks. Competitive pricing seemed for those who offered it within the market economy system, as in many other countries – where it is left to the market to see which company survives with the response they get from their customers.

The Constitution, concerned with the most favorable results for the end consumer, seems to support this also:

  • “The State shall respect market management in order to guarantee a better standard of living for the people.”

Cheaper communication costs seem to fulfill this goal.

It is always a good practice so look at innovative approaches in other countries – not necessarily to follow everything, but to seriously consider solutions others found in their context:

Earlier this year, the Tata corporation of India, dealing with cars, telecommunications, and steel, is setting up with the Japanese DOCOMO company, a new cellular service in the Indian market, where there are already more than 350 million customers. So Tata DOCOMO had to find ways to compete. All very similar to Cambodia – but on a much smaller scale. Tata DOCOMO used special lower cost pricing – charging per second where others charge per minute, charging SMS by the number of of letters sent, and not per message.

But it seems that decisions have been taken in Cambodia not to allow a “free market management,” by not allowing some companies to offer their customers free services. And even a special private company will be introduced to do the work which in many other countries is one of the tasks of the regulators, not of another private company – doing public coordination – which was not formed as a not-for-profit, and not by public bidding.

Not according to existing laws, but by administrative intervention, a market problem is being solved.

During the week, another crucial problem of acting within and according to the framework of the law was raised: Who knows what the law says – how is this made know? Known to the citizens what rights they have, and know to the law enforcement agents throughout the country – the police and the courts – which rights of the citizens they have to protect.

We repeat some observations from Saturday, 19.10.2009 – more details and the source is there:

Civil Society Wants to See that the Government Publishes the Contents of Law as Broadly as It Does at the National Assembly

“Though Article 13 of the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Council of Ministers (1994) provides that “all norms and standards with general effect must be published in the Official Gazette,” the publication of Cambodian laws is intermittent, incomplete and poorly distributed…

“On the basis of the Cambodian specific experience … there is an argument that the publication and distribution of law in electronic form is an appropriate tool to address the question of access to information in a legal system which has operated without adequate access to even the most basic legal information.

“Though there are issues to consider with regard to the development of a legal information system which will work in the Cambodian context, the country would appear to be at a juncture whereby there is sufficient political will to commence a dialogue with government, academia and civil society with a view to developing a model for the sustainable provision of legal information via the internet. Ideally, any movements in this direction would be accompanied by a regulation requiring all institutions of state to provide certain identified classes of documents for free electronic distribution…”

But there are different opinions about the sequence in which new legislation is needed in society: “The Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers Said that an Anti-Corruption Law Should Be Created before a Demonstration Law.” Why this sequence? “Because if corruption can be prevented, workers and citizens in general will not demonstrate or strike.”

Of course there are also those who just don’t seem to care, as long as the law enforcement leadership of the country does not care either, as we had mirrored:

“Koh Kong, Kompong Thom, and Prey Veng Governors Do not Care about Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Order to Crack Down On Gambling”

.

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One Response to “Knowing – Using – or Disregarding the Law – Sunday, 18.10.2009”

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With regard to the cell phone controversy and the government’s intervention one can only assume that this was done on the principle of price-dumping, which in other countries is part of anti-trust legislation and applied and enforced sometimes as haphazardly as it was done in Cambodia. Whether the competitive pricing meets the the criteria is up to dispute, but certainly free service, even if only within the proprietary system, certainly is price-dumping by any interpretation. A commercial enterprise cannot survive on offering free products or by selling their products below cost. This is considered illegal in all Western industrialized countries. It would also be considered unfair and deceptive trade practices as most assuredly that free service was meant to lure customers to the company, which eventually would have been required to introduce pricing for economic reasons alone after a certain time.


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