Thirty-one judges and prosecutors, including members of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, have been taken off the government’s payroll and have not received salaries for May, officials said Tuesday.
Those affected are all over the age of 60, and several interviewed on Tuesday said they were taken by surprise.
“I do not know why it has happened without notification,” said Chheng Phat, chief prosecutor at the Kandal provincial court. “This is a problem.”
Y Dan, secretary of state for the Ministry of Justice, said the problem originated with a computer error that accidentally removed the names—including those of Supreme Court Director Dith Monty and Appeals Court Prosecutor-General Hanrot Raken—from the payroll. Both men are members of the Supreme Council of Magistracy.
“We are working on this matter,” Y Dan said Tuesday.
But a senior official within the Ministry of Justice hinted that the judges and prosecutors were removed as part of a deal negotiated between Funcinpec and the CPP to end the political deadlock following the 2003 national election.
“It is the government’s policy,” said one senior ministry of justice official who asked not be named. “We cannot let [aging judges keep working]. We must do it now.”
According to a law governing the mandatory retirement of civil servants, employees are required to retire when they are 55 years old unless a special statute is invoked allowing them to retire at age 60.
But the law exempts judicial and legislative employees.
One court official railed against the payroll incident and claims it was linked to retirement.
“It is an execution before a hearing,” said the angry official, who also asked not be named. “If they want to make us retire, please make a law for us.”
Huot Hy, chief prosecutor at Kompong Thom provincial court, said he was not worried that he has not received his pay because he expects he would be notified if he were being forced to retire.
Following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s pledge to crackdown on corruption within the judiciary, the government in May dissolved the Supreme Council of Magistracy’s secretariat in what some called an effort to strengthen the government’s control over the judiciary.