The government yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the constitution by defending numerous constitutional amendments criticised both nationally and internationally, with some claiming the reforms were made to benefits the CPP.
Established in 1993, the constitution has been amended eight times over the last 25 years.
The government said that the amendments served to “enhance a multiparty democracy, strengthen national interests and oppose interference in Cambodia’s affairs”.
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said yesterday that over the past two and a half decades, the government has fully implemented laws that comply with the principles of democracy.
“The government has fully implemented principles stipulated in the constitution related to the freedom of citizens,” Mr Malin said.
Mr Malin noted that despite the government’s achievement, many political actors have used their rights to disrupt public order and infringe on the rights of others.
“We have good principles in order to comply with democratic ideas,” Mr Malin said. “But obviously, in practice our people do not yet clearly understand how to use their rights in accordance with the law.”
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said yesterday that the amendments made by the government over the years were not made in the interest of democracy.
Mr Mong Hay said that the dissolution of the CNRP is an example of this, and that the redistribution of its seats is undemocratic. The former opposition CNRP was dissolved last year after its former leader Kem Sokha was charged with treason.
Mr Mong Hay noted that amendments and new laws were made to give more power to the current regime in order to have control over citizens, political parties and civil society organisations.
Mr Mong Hay said the government has curtailed human rights and subdued critics and the opposition.
“The changes made were unconstitutional and we can say that the law is unfair,” he said. “[The government] changed the nature of leadership itself from liberal to a dictatorial one.”
Sok Sam Oeun, a legal expert, said that power has to be divided among all three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial.
“In order to implement the constitution effectively, we have to carry out its main principles which stipulate that power is to be divided between the bodies of legislative, executive and judicial,” Mr Sam Oeun said. “I noticed that the division of power is clearer now than in previous mandates.”
“In my opinion, we have all three branches here in Cambodia and they are all independent institutions. We also have other independent institutions such as the Constitutional Council of Cambodia, the Supreme Council of Magistracy and the Supreme Council of National Defence in order to ensure that those branches of government stay independent.”
Former opposition lawmaker Ou Chanrath said that amendments made to the constitution were intended to prosecute his party.
“Sometimes the government violates the constitution by changing the law as they see fit,” Mr Chanrath said. “Even if amendments were made to facilitate political decisions, there are still many positives to the constitution.”
“We saw some changes made to restrict political parties and to put pressure,” he added. “I see that many in the government do not respect the constitution because they keep involving politics, conduct nepotism and continue to infringe on human rights and freedom of expression.”
Chheang Vannarith, a scholar from the ISEAS-Yusof Institute in Singapore, said the constitution should only be amended for the interest of the public.
“Our constitution is relatively good,” Mr Vannarith said. “However, the implementation of it remains the issue.”