Ministers Told to Prepare for Public Scrutiny

During an epic speech on Wednesday that lasted for more than six-and-a-half hours, Prime Minister Hun Sen told his newly approved Cabinet that they would be subject to increased public scrutiny as part of a series of reforms to be undertaken by the CPP over the next five years.

In his first Cabinet meeting at the Peace Palace, Mr. Hun Sen offered a four-step solution for his ministers, many of whom have been serving the prime minister for well over a decade, to metaphorically wash themselves of whatever dirt and disease they may have accumulated in the past.

“First, you need to use a mirror to look at yourself. Second, you have to take a bath to clean your body. Third, you have to scrub your body while bathing if it is plagued by dirty things. Fourth, you have to heal your disease,” he said.

In order to ensure that CPP ministers don’t continue their misbehavior over the next five years, Mr. Hun Sen said that they would be forced to stand in front of “many mirrors” in the form of public forums for criticism, meetings with civil society and mandatory appearances before parliament.

“We have many mirrors to use if we want to use them and we learn to accept the reality, including a platform for public consultation with the people that must be done regularly to listen to people’s opinion and to know what the people want,” he said.

“Police chiefs and military police commanders or forestry and fisheries chiefs stationed in an area must attend public consultation in that area, allowing people to point their fingers at their faces,” Mr. Hun Sen added.

The prime minister, who this week has pushed forward with the formation of a new, one-party government despite a boycott of the National Assembly by opposition lawmakers, said that parliament and civil society would also play a role in keeping his government clean.

“I have told His Excellency Kem Sokha and His Excellency Sam Rainsy that you have the right in this mandate to call the ministers for questioning [at the National Assembly] or else they can submit a motion of no confidence. So each of you must be prepared,” he said, speaking to the audience of top CPP officials.

“The National Assembly has the right to ask me for questioning, but the National Assembly also has the right to ask all of you for questioning,” Mr. Hun Sen said, adding that civil society would be sought out for further consultation.

“We have the private sector to talk about issues related to the economy, but we will also have another forum for government and NGOs [to talk]. This regular check-in can be used for our improvement,” he added.

Mr. Hun Sen also asked Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana to fast-track a series of long-overdue judicial reforms to address the ills of Cambodia’s judiciary.

“We have to acknowledge our mistake that we could not enact these laws during the entirety of the last mandate. Now the only way [forward] is to dissolve the Supreme Council of State Reform and fully hand over legal and judicial reform to the justice minister,” he said.

Senior CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said that Mr. Hun Sen’s promises of reform would do little to appease about half of the country, some 3 million voters, that voted for change.

“The opening of the National Assembly under a one-party system already signifies that real reforms are not on the agenda of the CPP. You can’t do reforms by yourself, especially when you were the one who for so long failed to respond,” she said.

“People didn’t vote for CPP to conduct reforms. Words are meaningless unless actions are taken,” she added.

(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)

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