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On Anniversary of Constitution, a Call for Human Rights

Cambodia's constitution is 14 years old, but it has failed to ensure human rights for the people it represents, a leading human rights group said Monday.

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission said in a statement the Constitutional Council, which oversees constitutional issues, was not independent and failed to uphold the document that forms the basis of rights in the country.

Cambodia's UN-sanctioned constitution was signed Sept. 24, 1993, following Paris peace accords in 1991. It was meant to create a balance of powers between three arms of government.

But in the years since its inception, critics say, government control has stayed in the hands of the country's chief executive, Prime Minister Hun Sen.

A government spokesman said Monday the proof of Cambodia's dedication to human rights was the number of human rights organizations it allows to operate across the country.

"They can say whatever they want to. They can have whatever opinion they want to," Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak said.

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vatana said the government has made progress and the courts have been evolving into a more independent entity.