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Lawmaker: Gov't Should Answer the Assembly on Judge Appointment

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Editor's note: Below is the summary of a three-part series in which VOA Khmer interviewed Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay. The interview is available in Khmer audio.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Friday he plans to call government officials to the National Assembly to answer legal questions surrounding the recent appointment of a Khmer Rouge tribunal judge to head the national Court of Appeals.

With You Benleng, a prosecutor for the Khmer Rouge tribunal, appointed to become head of the national Appeals Court and given a seat on the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, questions on how Cambodia's constitution is balancing powers have come to the fore.

The UN members of the tribunal, as well as envoys from the head office of the world body, have said they are worried the appointment could weaken the already embattled tribunal.

You Bunleng's appointment was a "disappointment" and might be unlawful, Son Chhay said in a recent interview.

The constitution outlines three separate branches, the legislative, the executive and the judicial. No one branch should be able to control the other, Son Chhay said.

The executive branch, led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, appears to have had a hand in the sacking of former Appeals Court chief judge Ly Vuochleng, following allegations of bribery that have not been proven in court, critics say. Three other members of the Supreme Council of Magistracy are recent appointments as well, leading to criticism that Hun Sen controls the council.

Such proposals would not have passed without the approval of King Norodom Sihamoni, Son Chhay said.

The government has many questions to answer, he said, including how defrocked monk Tim Sakhorn, who has become a rally point for Khmer Kampuchea Krom advocates, was sent to Vietnam and arrested.

Government officials need to answer the legality of the judge appointments and the fates of people like Tim Sakhorn, he said, but his Assembly committee cannot alone call on them to do so.

He wondered allowed whether National Assembly President Heng Samrin would call out members of his own party to be questioned by the legislative body.