Human Rights and Peace Campaign Nyobay Social Politics

A Need for an Open and Transparent Legislation and Judiciary Reform in Cambodia

April 2014 Human Rights Spotlight: A Need for an Open and Transparent Legislation and Judiciary Reform in Cambodia

Main roads nearby the National Assembly were blocked in Phnom Penh on 23 September 2013 when the Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni convened the first post-election sitting of parliament. Photo by the author, Sopheap Chak (CC BY-ND 2.0).
Main roads nearby the National Assembly were blocked in Phnom Penh on 23 September 2013 when the Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni convened the first post-election sitting of parliament. Photo by the author, Sopheap Chak (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Cambodians are observing the in-depth reform promised by the ruling government—formed according to election result that has been contested by the opposition party who has now still boycotted the national assembly since September 2013 when the first session convened.

While it would be too early to assess the in-depth reform agenda here; however, it is not difficult to track down key concerning element and voice out our concern at early stage to ensure the government could now mirror itself to the promise.

Legislation and its process in spotlight: A number of new pending laws include the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO), the Law on the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, the Law on the Status of Judges and Prosecutors, the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Courts, the Law on Trade Unions, and the Cybercrime Law—all of these given the exception to the LANGO has been so far secret and three laws concerning to the judiciary reform has already received approval from the Council of Minister, right after the Khmer New Year holiday, without prior publication and open and broad consultations although civil society has repeatedly requested so. The parliamentarian member from the ruling party confirmed the three draft laws related to the judiciary reform has now arrived at the National Assembly and this shall be discussed and to be adopted in coming June.

All the mentioned law will highly impact human rights. With the purpose of the laws to promote and protect the Cambodian people interest, it becomes more necessary that the draft laws shall be made public so that relevant stakeholders and concerning civil society could offer input to reflect that purpose. By designing in such secretive manners, it only adds up to the public curiosity and question on the real intention of the government over the laws.

Amid current political deadlock and the last election result that shows the decline in number of people support, the ruling government would be able to restore people trust by implementing what it has promised within its political platforms and the rectangular strategy-phase III that highlight the necessity in “strengthening governance and capacity of public institutions in order to improve the efficiency of public service delivery” via “continuing legal and judicial reforms to ensure social justice and promote rights of people along with INTEGRITY, TRANSPARENCY, and ACCOUNTABILITY of civil service.” The government has also voiced its commitment to mirror themselves by listening to civil society more.

“We have many mirrors to use if we want to use them and we learn to accept the reality, including a platform for public consultation with the people that must be done regularly to listen to people’s opinion,” said Prime Minister Hun Sen during his talk on reform promise.

For the opposition party, the current political deadlock and its boycott to national assembly cannot be an excuse for them to stay silent on the issue neither. They has the obligation in the name of a political party who gain a large number of votes, meaning people are in trust with them to ensure their role in check and balance, to ensure a proper development of legislation and judiciary reform and other issues in the country—the role that more beyond their focus on political negotiation.

Human Rights and Peace Campaign Nyobay Social Politics

Cambodia: Where is human rights trend heading to?

I was leaving a private sector work to join with civil society organization as I believe I could not belong to private sector, then it has been 8 years already when I looked back to my first start in human rights work. My first start back then was not a welcoming moment as the leader of the organization (Kem Sokha back then and now the deputy leader of main opposition party) and few other human rights activists were arrested in connection to the human rights day celebration. With that incident, I shall run a way if I am scared of this risky job, but I did not. I was at office during that time of Kem Sokha’s arrest while I came on weekend to clear pending tasks. That moment  inspired me to work further in my role to contribute to the the whole organization work in collaboration with other community to demand for their release and promotion of human rights respect in Cambodia.

I kept saying the human rights situation is fluctuated like the economic graph where it was up and down at certain period. Here the graph where I has drawn up:

Human Rights Situation Graph, drawn by the Author, Sopheap Chak (CC BY-ND 2.0).

After years of working with the expectation to see the trend of human rights situation would went up as the government would envision for the economic growth where the two could converged along the way together, the scenario of human rights has returned back to the point where I had started in late 2005. Now the question is whether the trend would move on, will it be up or further down?

Cambodian government, although under criticism of failure to protect and promote human rights for years, there has been attempt to address the criticism and 2013, the year of 5th mandate national election saw a mixture of development where restriction was applied in the mid of promising development of people participation in democratic process. Thanking to a not-yet restricted social media where majority of youths utilize this tools to disseminate and discuss political subject. The common self-censorship attitude appears to be lessen among most commentators who bravely speaks in their name and their identity to criticize government policies.

The ongoing political deadlock in which parties clashed on result of election held since 28 July 2013 has still not yet reached its common door for political resolution. With election result showing the decline of voters’ support to the long-time ruling party made the government leading by the Prime Minister Hun Sen to promise for an in-dept reform in its governance performance. Such commitment shall reflect well with policy formulation and implementation. Yet, the recent violent crackdown on protests by oppositional party and other civil actors such as unions and land activists may draw back that promise and further affect the score that people would place for this ruling party.

While many are in line with opposition party whose slogan for change of this country may not purely in line for political support but for the change they want to see, the opposition is mandated to  set clear strategy for change they had promised too; otherwise the support they has enjoyed to back up their political agenda would slowly decrease.

Now the main question is what next the political parties would need to correct the current situation? As a human right advocate, I condemn the violent means that affect human rights situation and parties need to restore this situation immediately before it would get even worse. It even become necessary for the claiming government to ensure that their in-dept reform including the improvement of public service and functions shall mainstream human rights principle so that its claiming rule of law and democratic state is translated in real practice. The current violent crackdown resulting to death of civilians and protesters must be properly investigated without finger point of blame and those who commit of this act must be brought to justice otherwise the culture of impunity is always there. The arrest of activists who exercised their right to freedom of expression and assembly and crackdown on their demand is not going to solve the root-cause of problem, instead it would just like adding fire on fuel, where it made the current political situation even worse.

The political solution I could see to address this deadlock is when both parties would agree now to set the rule of game together given the condition here accepted first: Re-election after National Election Committee would be reformed and recognized by all parties! For ruling party who claimed of victory could win with dignity by accepting this and if you are the winner you shall be confident in your voters again. For opposition party who kept contesting the election results, please mind your position that you are in battle field in the game you accept to enter (if re-election would happen), you are in to accept the result, if not, there is no way that countless elections would satisfy yours (I remembered during the CNRP party are to discuss to boycott election or not, Kem Sokah claimed to boycott while Sam Rainsy claimed to join election (meaning to accept the standard of the game) and yet party could contest result later if dissatisfied). So, my message to both parties, please agree to the point to make our nations proud of you both!

Nyobay Social Politics

Cambodian Political Deadlock: A Trend or An Excuse?

Since the election on 28 July 2013—when we witnessed a changing trend among Cambodians in political sphere which political debate and question on political parties for a concrete policy was raised and never so in the history—the uncertainty of how political resolution around the election result has continued. The problem continued at the controversy of the election result at which both preliminarily result and now the official result was maintained that the ruling party, the Cambodian People Party (CPP), won 68 seats while the joined opposition party—merged between the Human Rights Party and Sam Rainsy Party—now known as the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) disputed on the result that it won only 55 seats and the later also demand a joint independent investigation body to investigate on reported election irregularities.

Following the first peaceful mass demonstration organized by the CNRP on 7th September 2013—that majority of public was fear of clash might happen while the transitional government has deployed numerous military officials with full of crackdown equipment and weapons; and yet thank to both sides for peaceful actions to make the demonstration went through peacefully at the end—the trend of mass demonstration is going to be continued as the official election result was announced a day after of demonstration as it had scheduled. The opposition party also declared to boycott the first national assembly meeting if the problem is not settled. Such move is to prevent a new government for 5th mandate be formed legally while the ruling party and the affiliated National Election Committee (NEC) claimed they could continue to form the government although there is boycott from the opposition members.

There are many analysis and suggestion by individuals and civil society regarding this political deadlock; however, the problem still remains. Thus the question is why: Is it a trend that Cambodians should face with power division or an excuse by either politicians to solve it?

I rather view the current political deadlock as the excuse by both sides of parties. The one who claimed to win the votes of people but dare not to address the problem properly and has failed to show enough effort toward resolution. The other side, opposition party, has also played an excuse around this political deadlock. The opposition party should aware already that the nature of the election arbitration body, which is NEC and the party leaders, had once discussed to boycott joining election since beginning and yet, they ended up to join this battlefield while the top leader claimed the method of boycott at the end when the election result would not satisfy them—the now move that the party has taken.

Having said so, I did not mean the election itself has been well organized nor I accepted the election result, but I could see room that both sides could talk and seek resolution together without playing the same game that an ordinary citizens could predict. Probably the game has already been settled secretly or not, yet the parties’ need to aware the power of people now has changed and any steps would be taken, the citizens are watching.

For any positive steps for either sides are going to take now would give a plus for them as for CPP would restore the trust from the public that lose confident in them (CPP shall not view with the current slight wining as the victory, but they shall review the huge decline of vote considering with much resource and effort it has made during the previous mandate and during election propaganda) and for the CNRP to work on promise it has made and to maintain the support it shall gain. The parties has make a remarkable change in history of political debate when the policy was used as the battle field and reduced the individualism attack and we has witnessed the affecting trend on government policies in transparency lately. Thus, it would be more beneficial for people if the opposition party would agree the current intake, without losing this opportunity, but negotiate for more involvement in legislative and executive body to make a long-term effect with proper reform.

Anyway, in this digital society, the parties need to be aware that they could not easily manipulate people as they used to do in the name of people interest, it is the time when people are caring to make their own interest work.