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Constitution Not Fully Honored: Critics

Sixteen years after Cambodia implemented its constitution, the government has yet to “fully respect” it, civic leaders and opposition officials said Thursday, marking the anniversary.

Violations of human rights, forced evictions, a lack of access to information and curbed freedoms all point to abuse of the constitution, they said. The constitution established Sept. 24, 1993, by signature of then king Norodom Sihanouk.

“Since 1993, there has not yet been proper implementation [of the constitution],” Yim Sovann, a lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said on Thursday.

“In Phnom Penh, for example, we see thousands of families forcibly evicted with unjust compensation; they are not allowed to participate in decision-making processes and there is abuse of power by authorities.”

Other officials, however, said the constitution has been fairly implemented.

“There have been no violations of the constitution so far,” Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yiep said. “But we acknowledge that sometimes we have not achieved what is required by law, and we are now trying to change and strengthen it, in order to be in line with the laws.”

Not even developed countries like the US, France and England follow their laws perfectly, he said.

Chhim Seak Leng, the newly appointed president of the Nationalist Party and formerly of the Norodom Ranarridh Party, said the government has done much in accordance with the constitution.

The 1993 constitution was the fifth implemented since 1947, when Cambodia was a French protectorate. It includes provisions like Article 31, which binds the Kingdom of Cambodia to respect human rights as stipulated by the UN, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other covenants.

Sok Som Eoun, executive director of Cambodia Defenders Project, said proper respect of the constitution would require political will from the ruling party.

“We depend on [members of parliament], especially those from the party with the majority of parliamentary seats, so that the constitution can be respected and implemented,” he said. The king can also make sure the constitution is fully respected, he added.