King Picks Critic for Constitutional Council

Racked with controversy since its remaining members were appointed last month, the Con­stitutional Council has a new critic in its midst. Say Bory, who earlier this month was calling the council “illegal,” was appointed to the nation’s top legal body by the King on Thursday. 

As president of the Cambodian Bar Association, the professional body for lawyers, Say Bory is one of the country’s most senior legal experts. He replaces council member Pung Peng Cheng, who stayed in his post long enough to convene the first meeting and oversee a vote for a president.

Say Bory said Thursday he was excited about serving on Cam­bodia’s highest appeals body, and vowed to continue to press for public accountability. His main gripe had been against several members of the council who he believed did not have the re­quired qualifications for the post.

“The Constitutional Council is the highest legal body, so its members need to show their certificates to the public in order to protect the council’s reputation and make it legally acceptable,” he said Thursday.

He may be alone in his dissent. Critics say the council is stacked in favor of the CPP, with six of the nine members apparently CPP sympathizers.

“I will only be one voice against them,” Say Bory conceded Thurs­­day, adding he wanted to discuss these and other criticisms with the other members of the council, in particular his concerns about the voting process used to choose the new president of the council, Chan Sok.

The King’s two other appoin­tees have boycotted the council, citing irregularities in appointment procedure and claiming that the council was illegally convened.

Say Bory said earlier this year he was considering setting up his own party to fight the elections. He also tried to gain a place on the Constitutional Coun­cil as a National Assembly nominee but failed to gain the necessary CPP support.

He insisted Thursday he did not have a political agenda.

“I will be actively involved in the Constitutional Council, but in the field of law, not on behalf of any political party,” he said.

Phyllis Cox, a consultant with Legal Aid of Cambodia, has disagreed with Say Bory in the past over the status of legal aid NGOs, but was nonetheless pleased to hear of his appointment.

“He’s an excellent choice and a highly qualified candidate,” she said. “We haven’t always agreed, but he stands for high standards of performance for lawyers, for the independence of the legal profession and I applaud that. “

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