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Cambodia Should Consider Shadow Cabinet, Analysts Say

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni, second right, poses for photograph altogether with Hun Sen, right, Cambodian Prime Minister, Chea Sim, second left, Cambodia Senate President, Heng Samrin, left, Cambodian National Assembly President, in front of the National Assembly in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008. Cambodia's newly elected lower house of parliament held its inaugural session Wednesday, ushering in a new era of sweeping power of Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party in the impoverished Southeast Asian nation. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Parliamentary systems often operate with shadow cabinets so that an effective opposition can be seen to publicly scrutinize the work of government ministries.

Parliamentary systems often operate with shadow cabinets so that an effective opposition can be seen to publicly scrutinize the work of government ministries.

But suggestions that the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party might be planning to establish shadow cabinet positions was swiftly dismissed by the country’s ruling party.

Political analysts, however, say the system would be difficult to implement in Cambodia, but called for the issue to be studied in detail before being rejected by the powers that be.

Ou Virak, founder of the Future Forum think tank, encouraged politicians from the major parties to begin frank discussions on the possibility of establishing a shadow cabinet system.

“I regret [the situation] because politicians in our nation do not consider these things in depth. They just don’t go into detail about it. So there are always disputes when you work that way,” he said.

But the increased public scrutiny that such a system creates would increase democratic competition, he added. “It’s not hard to figure out. Many nations already serve as a model.”

When a shadow cabinet is established, the country’s main opposition party selects lawmakers for roles such as shadow defense minister, whose duty it is to monitor the government’s defense policy and propose alternatives. The shadow ministers would likely assume the relevant ministerial role if their party wins an election and act as a government-in-waiting.

Heng Sreang, a social researcher, said that in a democratic society forming a shadow cabinet should not be a controversial suggestion.

“The ruling party always distrusts whether the shadow parliament … would rally people to overthrow them,” he said. “I think it could make the situation worse.”

“As I see it, politics in our nation seems not to progress… it seems that politicians lack professionalism,” he added. “It’s all about a fight to win in the name of the individual, in the name of the party.”

Officials, however, said there was no law providing for the establishment of a shadow cabinet nor should one be discussed.

“Whatever it is, it has to be in accordance with the law,” said General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior. “There’s no such thing like ‘I’m a shadow committee to observe the government.’ That’s illegal.”

Ruling Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan said making a constitutional amendment to allow for the formation of a shadow cabinet would not be in the interests of the Cambodian people.

“I think there’s no need to even think about any constitutional amendment or law for a shadow government, because it would only lead to problems and does not serve the interests of the people. It only leads to form two forces that oppose each other, with one side legal and another illegal. That’s impossible,” he said.