In the wake of the ruling CPP sweeping all 125 National Assembly seats, political and legal experts, as well as the UN’s human rights envoy, are questioning the legitimacy of the government.
In a discussion organised by Khmer Times yesterday, Sok Sam Oeun, a legal expert, said recent constitutional reforms could have failed to ensure an equal amount of voices are represented in parliament.
Mr Sam Oeun said the CPP began consolidating power in early 2006 by passing a constitutional amendment that allowed for a 51-percent majority government, instead of two-thirds majority.
“The amendment made it easier for a majority party to adopt laws that will benefit them,” he claimed. “In doing so, the constitution may have become weaker. A majority party would not listen, or even care about minor parties.”
Mr Sam Oeun noted that a system of checks-and-balances among the three branches of government is needed to ensure independence.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said during the discussion that numerous constitutional amendments were made over the years with hopes to advance the nation, noting they mostly just gave more power to the current regime.
“There were allegations of a foreign conspiracy to overthrow the government, but dissolving an [opposition] party was not the way we should have handled it,” Mr Mong Hay said. “The government should have investigated individuals. I think that the redistribution of former opposition CNRP parliamentary seats was undemocratic. People expressed dissatisfaction when unelected parties grabbed another party’s seats.”
During the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the constitution on Monday, the government outlined its achievements, noting amendments were made to enhance multi-party democracy, strengthen national interest and oppose interference in the Kingdom’s affairs.
Rhona Smith, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, on Wednesday told the UN Human Rights Council that the dissolution of the CNRP and the banning of its senior members from politics calls the genuineness of July’s national election into question.
Ms Smith added that calls should be made upon the government to make a concerted effort to improve the human rights situation and create a more favourable political environment.
“Pluralistic political debate is an essential element in having genuine competition in any election,” she said.
In response, Ney Sam Ol, Cambodian Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said the UN Special Rapporteur only highlighted a few positive developments while disregarding realities on the ground.
“Some allegations were also too vague – they were open to subjective interpretation and political mutilation at the expense of our government’s reputation,” he said. “We are committed to the principle of a multi-party democratic system.”
He added that the absence of the now-defunct opposition party should not be interpreted as evidence of violations of human rights and freedom of expression in Cambodia.
“We listen to all concerns raised […] any dialogue with insulting and humiliating character is unacceptable,” Mr Sam Ol said. “The recent bail release of [former opposition leader] Kem Sokha was a humanitarian act.”