The ruling Cambodian People’s Party has added Supreme Court officials to its Central Committee following a party congress that ended last week, local media reported.
The party added Chiv Keng, a judge, Chea Leang, a prosecutor, and Ky Tech, Hun Sen’s lawyer, to the roster.
In total, 342 additional members were added to the Central Committee, according to a resolution published by the CPP.
Soeng Senkaruna, a spokesman for local rights group Adhoc, said the decision to include the justice officials would spark criticism and undermined the ruling party’s claim that the judiciary was independent of politics.
“I want to say that we see that the court institution is not independent because we can see obviously the insertion of judges into such a political party and this party has a role in leading the state. Thus, it’s inevitable it will receive criticism regarding the impartiality of the court,” he said.
However, Uk Kemseth, Supreme Court spokesman, dismissed the criticism, saying court officials were not prohibited from joining political parties.
“It’s not right to make those claims because the judiciary works in accordance with their thoughts and conscience, but it is an individual right to choose a political party,” he said.
Both Keng and Leang are members of the Supreme Court’s jurist council, which was involved in the case against the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which led to its dissolution in November. Dith Munty, the council’s president, is also a member.
The CPP congress came after Human Rights Watch released a report criticizing the crackdown on the opposition and civil society.
Sok Eysan, a CPP spokesman, could not be reached for comment, however, he previously told VOA Khmer that despite their obvious political bias they would not let their affiliation with the CPP guide their decision-making.
Other justice officials, including Kem Santepheap, justice ministry spokesman, and Yun Bunleng, president of the Appeals Court, were also added to the Central Committee.