The Council of Ministers has submitted a list to the Justice Ministry of 42 senior officials, including judges and prosecutors, who have reached or will reach the retirement age of 60 in 2009 and must now retire, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said Friday.
However, despite the government order, Ang Vong Vathana said that he had no legal means to force the officials to retire if they refuse to leave voluntarily.
Ang Vong Vathana said that judges are under the authority of the Supreme Council of Magistracy and are not simply government employees, though the Council of Minister order, which was signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, refers to the 42 would-be retirees as “civil servants.”
“I have no rights to retire them right away…. I must consult with the Supreme Council [of Magistracy],” the minister said in an interview.
The minister also clarified that in an interview on Thursday regarding the retirement order he did not confirm that Supreme Court President Dith Munty was on the retirees’ list.
Ang Vong Vathana also said that he wasn’t aware of any of the names of judges and prosecutors on the list compiled by the Council of Administrative Reform, which is located at the Council of Ministers.
According to a copy of the retirement list, which was sent to Justice Ministry in December, Council of Administrative Reform Secretary General Ngo Hongly informed Ang Vong Vathana that the 42 officials had reached retirement age.
Hun Sen also sent a directive dated Jan 12 to the ministry stating: “Some civil servants, who are at the retirement age, have sought interventions in various form to delay their retirement.”
Some civil servants had even asked to change their ages in a bid to stay on in government jobs, Hun Sen wrote.
“In order to strengthen the good and effective governance…
every civil servant, who reaches the retirement age, must be retired,” Hun Sen wrote in his directive.
“Reduction of ages and delaying the retirement of the civil servants are not permitted,” he added.
Senior court officials included on the list of 42 names include Dith Munty and Prosecutor General Uk Vithun. According to the list, Dith Munty will turn 60 years old in November, while Uk Vithun will be 62 in September.
Neither Dith Munty nor Uk Vithun could be reached for comment Friday.
Also on the list is Appeal Court Deputy Presidents Chuon Sunleng, 62, and Ty Neng, 65, and the court’s Prosecutor-General Hanrot Raken, who turns 68 in March.
Hanrot Raken said Friday that he was upset about the lack of information and disorganization regarding pensions for retiring and retired judges and prosecutors.
“In Cambodia, there is nothing prepared [for retired officials],” Hanrot Raken said.
“After working 20 to 30 years, it is empty hands,” he said, adding that he was not sure whether he would request a delay to his ordered retirement.
Provincial prosecutors, Yam Yet, 62, and Mak Phanny, 66, of Prey Veng and Kratie, are also on the list, as well as Khmer Rouge Tribunal reserve co-investigating judge Thong Ol, 60.
Preah Vihear Provincial Court’s Director Uth Van Em, 66, said Friday that he would agree to retire, but that he too was concerned about the lack of pensions.
“It has not been seen how much the pension will be,” Uth Van Em said. “It is for me to live on,” he added.
Kandal Provincial Court’s director Khiev Sameth, 61, said that he would ask for another one-year delay to his retirement.
Khiev Sameth, who is also a member of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, said that judges could request five one-year delays to their retirement.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the free legal aid organization Cambodia Defenders Project, said Thursday that the retirement order was an effort to reform the judicial system.
“There were always delays [in retirement],” Sok Sam Oeun said.
“[Now] they stop forgiving big officials,” he said, adding that there are a lot of young officials with potential to fill top spots in the courts but have not been given the opportunity.
SRP leader Sam Rainsy said Thursday that retirement was normal and good for injecting new blood into the courts, but the choice of those singled out for retirement was discriminatory.
“The ones who serve them, they are allowed to stay for life,” he said, referring to those in senior government positions who are members of the ruling CPP.