Home Equality & Justice Southeast Asian MPs warn against proposed changes to Cambodia's Constitution

Southeast Asian MPs warn against proposed changes to Cambodia’s Constitution

One of the proposed amendments would eliminate the need for the National Assembly to approve the designated prime minister

Southeast Asian parliamentarians have expressed alarm this week over the reported proposal to change Cambodia’s Constitution, describing it as a “death sentence for democracy” in the country.

One of the proposed amendments would eliminate the need for the National Assembly to approve the designated prime minister.

In a statement, the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said the move would pave the way for Prime Minister Hun Sen to transfer power to his son Hun Manet.

“The government claims that the intention of the changes is to ensure a functioning government, but many of them are designed to cement the power of Hun Sen and his cronies by giving more power to the executive branch of government,” said the group.

Kasit Piromya, former Thai Foreign Minister and MP, said that if confirmed, the latest move would trample democratic processes and the rights of millions of Cambodians.

APHR said the “most worrying” amendment is that of Article 119, which concerns the appointment of the prime minister.

In its current form, the article states that the National Assembly must elect a prime minister from the winning party.

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Changes being proposed, however, would only require the party with the most seats in the National Assembly to propose to the King who he can appoint as Prime Minister to form the government, thus avoiding a debate in Parliament on the qualifications of the candidate.

Other changes include giving the prime minister the prerogative to appoint an interim prime minister, or increasing, from 30 to 42, the number of members of Parliament that can bring a non-confidence vote on the prime minister or members of the Cabinet.

Hun Sen’s Cabinet has reportedly already approved the amendments, leaving only the parliament to pass them into law.

The ruling Cambodian’s People Party (CPP) occupies all 125 seats in parliament after the most prominent opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was dissolved in 2017 on charges of treason.

The move to change the Constitution comes shortly after the Communal and Sangkat Elections on June 5.

The move also comes seven months after Hun Manet, Hun Sen’s oldest son, was elected as the “prime minister candidate of the future” by the CPP, thus paving the way for him to succeed his father at an unspecified point in the future.

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