Prime Minister Hun Sen used a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh Monday to denounce criticism from civil society groups who say that his government is rushing judicial reforms into law without appropriate public consultation.
Speaking at the ceremony for about 1,800 students from the Asia Euro University, the prime minister said he had kept abreast of the criticism during his recent trip to Azerbaijan and Belarus by reading the news on his phone.
“They said that the law was not sent to civil society to discuss with the people. I just send a message back that, firstly, we have listened a lot already,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“Secondly, the provisions of the Constitution do not allow us to give [the draft law] to someone besides the Council of Ministers and says that the Council of Ministers should send it to the National Assembly,” he continued. “It does not say to send it to non-government organizations.”
NGOs including the Cambodian Center for Human Rights criticized the lack of public consultation on the government’s three judicial reform laws since they were approved on April 18 by the Council of Ministers for introduction to the National Assembly.
Mr. Hun Sen said yesterday that the reproach of the government’s speedy processing of the laws was unfair coming from groups who have long called for judicial reforms.
“When [the government] did not do it, they say it is very slow, and then when [the government] does it, they say it is very fast. Oh my Buddha!” the prime minister said.
He added that appropriate discussions on the law will take place among lawmakers.
“If they want to pass the law, please join the election to become a National Assembly member…. Everything in the law is taken to be discussed in the National Assembly,” he said.
The National Assembly is currently composed of only 68 lawmakers from the ruling CPP. The CNRP’s 55 lawmakers are boycotting the legislative body, claiming that a new national election is needed after last year’s vote was marred by irregularities and fraud.
Mr. Hun Sen said at the graduation ceremony that he was tired of talking about the post-election deadlock with the CNRP and was not interested in fueling more news reports.
“If I continue to talk, it will continue to be a story,” he said. “The political case is a story, but important stories are diplomatic stories about business, economics and tourism.”
On that point, Mr. Hun Sen told the crowd not to think he had visited Belarus for military reasons, noting that Cambodia has imported a large quantity of trucks and tractors from the country since it was an allied Soviet socialist republic during the 1980s.
“I went to visit a truck production company, and don’t be confused that I went to buy BM-21s,” he said, referring to 122-millimeter Soviet-era truck-mounted rocket launchers.
“They laid out a row of trucks including trucks with rifles, and the Cambodian television stations played that image,” he said. “But don’t be confused that I went to buy BM-21s.”