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Parties, NGOs invited to Constitution briefing

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Justice minister Koeut Rith holds a press conference to explain the intentions of the 10th amendment to the Constitution on July 14, before the changes were passed by the National Assembly on July 28. JUSTICE MINISTRY

Parties, NGOs invited to Constitution briefing

Despite wide support among many political parties for last week’s passage of the 10th constitutional amendment, some opposition parties and NGOs said they would not attend the August 2-4 meetings scheduled by the Ministry of Justice to explain the changes.

The ministry on July 29 issued an invitation to the parties and NGOs that have expressed concerns about the amendment, which was passed by the National Assembly (NA) the previous day. They were asked to meet with ministry officials to become more familiar with the essentials of the six amended articles of the Constitution and the two articles of the Additional Constitutional Law.

The ministry set the afternoons of August 2-4 for the meetings, noting that its officials could be flexible with the schedule at the request of any of the invitees, if their representatives were unable to attend these sessions. To ensure transparency, it also invited the media to observe the discussions.

The NA on July 28 unanimously voted in favour of the changes to articles 19, 89, 98, 102, 119 and 125 of the Constitution, along with articles 3 and 4 of the Additional Constitutional Law.

Four political parties – Candlelight (CP), Khmer Will (KUP), Cambodian Reform (KRP) and Grassroots Democratic (GDP) – have voiced their objections to the amendment and, prior to its passage, even filed a petition to the NA urging that they vote down the proposed changes.

A number of NGOs and civil society organisations have joined the fray, saying the amendment would undermine multi-party democratic principles, weaken the power of the legislature and alter the parliamentary system.

Justice minister Koeut Rith held a press conference to allay concerns on July 14 and again on July 28 when he defended the changes at the July 28 televised NA plenary session.

The minister – as well as NA members from its expert commissions – have repeatedly said the amendment is aimed at ensuring the regular functioning of national institutions, especially the executive branch, in the case of certain unusual circumstances and to make sure that they are able to maintain continuity of government without a deadlock or stalemate bringing things to an impasse with no clear solution – as were the cases following previous elections.

Chep Kim Eang, vice-president of Candlelight – the second-largest party with candidates fielded across the country in the June 5 commune council elections – told The Post on July 31 that CP would not attend the session organised by the justice ministry because the articles had already been passed by the NA.

His party would have attended and offered their opinion had it been consulted before the amendments were passed, he said.

“More explanations will not change anything. We already understand the content of the changes, so we will not attend. Several other parties feel the same way,” he said.

Kim Eang said he was disappointed that the NA ignored the July 21 petition submitted by the four parties.

GDP spokesman Loek Sothea could not be reached for comment on July 31, but the party said on social media that it would have attended the session had they been held before the passage.

Ny Sokha, director of rights group ADHOC, one of the NGOs that had expressed concerns about the amendment, said his organisation would not attend the ministry’s explanation session because the bill would reach the Senate soon anyway. He said he would speak with other NGOs to find out if they intended to attend.

“There should have been consultation with the public – and political parties outside the government that will contest the next election – so they could have their say on the proposed amendment. Anyway, the draft law has already been passed.

“We have already expressed our concerns through a statement, so there is no need to comment further,” he told The Post.

Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said on July 30 that the proposed meetings with concern political parties and NGOs was not a form of consultation on the passed changes, but to enable them to understand the amended articles more clearly, as it seemed they had not got the essence of them, nor their intentions.

“The sessions will be held to clear up confusion and their wrong view that the 10th amendment of the Constitution will affect multi-party democracy principle and the parliamentary system,” Malin said.

“Most Cambodian people supported the 10th amendment to the Constitution. This was reflected by the amount of supporting petitions we received,” he added.

In the last few days, many state institutions and the armed forces had issued petitions to show their support for the amendment.

Separately, the newly formed Cambodia National Love Party, which also contested the commune elections, announced it would be dissolving itself from July 29 as they support the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who they say has led the country to peace, development and prosperity. They said the amendment to the Constitution was clearly for the sake of the nation.


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