More than a year after a bribery scandal caused her dismissal as president of the Appeal Court, Ly Vuochleng has been appointed as legal counsel to the Council of Ministers, officials said Thursday.
A longtime jurist and one of the framers of the constitution used in the 1980s by the People’s Republic of Kampuchea government, Ly Vuochleng was removed from her position at the Appeal Court in August 2007 after the appellate bench allegedly accepted $30,000 to release two human trafficking suspects.
Following Ly Vuochleng’s transfer to an unspecified position at the Justice Ministry, You Bunleng, currently the Cambodian Co-Investigating Judge at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, was appointed to succeed her, prompting expressions of concern from the UN. Chuon Sunleng, deputy president of the Appeal Court, is serving as acting President during You Bunleng’s time at the tribunal.
Ly Vuochleng could not be reached Thursday however Council of Ministers Secretary of State Phay Siphan said that, regardless of Ly Vuochleng’s past, her expertise was needed at the government’s council of jurists.
“Her dismissal is separate from human resources. We need human resources,” he said, adding that the royal decree for her appointment had been dated Jan 2. “She will offer her ideas to the Council of Ministers…. We need her knowledge.”
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith declined to comment on Ly Vuochleng’s new appointment. However CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said she her new appointment reflected good behavior.
“The government can’t punish her until the day she dies,” he said.
However, Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said Ly Vuochleng’s return to public service was a symbolic gesture.
“These are face-saving positions,” he said of appointments given to officials formerly suspected of wrongdoing. “It is not an isolated case. This will encourage perpetrators not to be afraid.”
“The NGO’s want to strengthen the judicial system but that’s still far off,” he said.
SRP leader Sam Rainsy said Thursday that if Ly Vuochleng had indeed broken the law, she should be punished accordingly, and not transferred or promoted.
“Impunity continues to exist. We don’t see that anyone who commits a crime is brought to justice,” he said.