To Trust the Law Means to Trust that the Law is not only Written, but that It Is Implemented – Sunday, 29.8.2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 679
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Editor of The Mirror
Social stability depends on a situation where the citizens trust that the law is implemented. Not every time when somebody thinks to be treated unjustly this is also true. But the fact that every week there are several reports of demonstrations of groups of people, in different parts of the country, who feel they are suffering injustice – mostly related to land use and land rights – should be a sign of alarm. Social stability can be enforced for some time, but that is different from social stability based on peace and justice.
In 2002, the Prime Minister had said in his opening speech to the Consultative Group Meeting between representatives of the Cambodian Government and representatives of cooperating countries and international institutions:
“We are conscious that corruption in the public machinery, be it judiciary or administrative or any other, increases transaction costs for everyone and reduces predictability in law enforcement and implementation of government’s policies… The government believes that enactment of adequate laws and regulations to prevent and punish corruption is crucial for addressing this problem.”
And in December 2005 he warned that if illegal land seizures were not brought under control, they could lead to a farmers’ revolution.
Are these words of the Prime Minister out of date?
Seeing that during many of present demonstrations people carrying pictures of the Prime Minister and the First Lady shows that many people still have hope in interventions by the Prime Minister to provide justice – even when they have lost confidence that the normal process of the courts will achieve this goal.
Violations of the law happen regularly and massively, as claimed in the Cambodian press, and this is also confirmed by high ranking officials of the government. Just to quote some examples from the current week reported in The Mirror:
- Contraband Is Massively Imported while Members of the Authorities Are Collecting Colossal Amounts of Money
- Prime Minister Hun Sen Had Often Warned against It, but Frequently Heads of Some Institutions and Units Continue to Nominate Their Children’s Spouses or Other Relatives to Take Their Positions When They Retire
- Tax Officers Who Collect Excessive Amounts of Money from Road Tax Payments Face Dismissal [so this is happening]
- Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Order to Intercept Forestry Crimes Is No Longer Followed [recently, there is more illegal wood transported]
- Disabled Veterans and Retiring Civil Servants Complained about Difficulties to Get Their Salaries [as they were told to wait from day to day]
Not all press reports are verified – but if there are repeatedly reports about the same kind of violations, one would expect concerned statements from the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers, explaining to the public what the authorities are doing to check what is going on to rectify what is wrong.
It is surprising that, instead, the spokesperson of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Tith Sothea, when requested to look into problems in the way society is operating in spite of the regulations of the Constitution of 1993, made appeasing statements. He said that the government always rules the country following the law, adding, “If the opposition party wants further reforms beyond this, it has to wait until it wins the elections.” Many people who are convinced they suffer injustice do not want to see a complete political change, they just want to see that the laws and the Constitution of 1993 are really implemented.
When the 2010 report of Amnesty International drew the attention to the plight of thousands of Cambodian citizens suffering from forced relocations – in case of Group 78 in the Tonle Basak commune and other cases – the same spokesperson of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers accused Amnesty International not to have studied the actual situation. Even accusations were made that such reports about the plight of Cambodian people asking for justice are only written to gain money for the writers. One might expect that the spokesperson would rather elaborate what the government is doing to help the people who have lost their homes, where they had had their livelihood – though poor – established for many years.
Will the Minister of Justice also be accused of “not to have studied the actual situation” for blaming the court system of not functioning according to the law, and therefore not delivering justice:
- The Ministry of Justice Released a Letter to Warn Judges and Prosecutors Who Read Newspapers during Hearings and Assign Clerks to Assume Their Responsibility Instead
When a Delegation of the European Parliament recently visited Cambodia to study the medical sector, they observed the gap between what the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia says, and the realities they met. The Mirror carried repeatedly reports about sick people who could not get proper attention in hospitals if they were not able to pay first.
The public is not so much interested in claims by the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers that everything is all right. It would rather be interesting to read more about what measure are taken or planned to bridge the gap between the requirements of the Constitution – from which we quote here – than to be referred to a possible change by electoral vote, if the people want to see the Constitution implemented.
Some related quotes from the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia – always interesting and important reading:
- Article 72: The health of the people shall be guaranteed. The State shall give full consideration to disease prevention and medical treatment. Poor citizens shall receive free medical consultation in public hospitals, infirmaries and maternities.
- Article 74: The State shall assist the disabled and the families of combatants who sacrificed their lives for the nation.
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