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Who Knows What? Who Is in Charge?

By: Norbert Klein Posted: January-27-2011 in
Norbert Klein

The Mirror, Vol. 15, No. 701

When Cambodian citizens – “The Cambodian people are the masters of their own country” according to Article 51 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia – try to get information from the authorities which affects their lives, they seem to be often treated rather than subordinate servants.

We collected, over time, random sections of information from the media, where – instead of receiving an answer to a question, the person who asked is directed to another place, from there a new direction is give – again back to the starting point. A very frustrating situation without a solution.

Just some examples form the recent past, from different fields:

  • Malaysia Reportedly Arrests 65 Cambodian Migrants

Cambodian Labor Ministry Secretary of State Othsman Hassan declined to comment yesterday, referring questions to fellow Secretary of State Oum Mean, who could not be reached. Ho Vuthy, deputy director of the ministry’s general department of labor, said he would not comment because he was unaware of the news.
  • Bribe Paid to Minister Useless, Say Villagers

Mr Vong Vathana could not be reached for comment, but his chief of Cabinet, Sam Pracheameanith, said he was unfamiliar with the case and declined to comment on the bribery allegations, referring questions to the provincial court. Prosecutor Ros Saram declined to comment.

  • Displaced Lake Residents Forced Away From Tracks

“Deputy Daun Penh district governor Sok Penhvuth brought police officers and three trucks to remove the villagers’ homes near the railway that had started being building that evening,” he said. On Thursday, deputy commune chief In Saphorn said compensation for any property within 10 meters of the tracks was Toll’s responsibility. Toll CEO David Kerr denied the claim, saying relocations were not his firm’s responsibility.

  • Village One Almost Buried in Mud, Villagers Say

Company employees could not be reached for comment yesterday but have consistently refused to speak with reporters and referred all questions about the project to the government. Neither city officials nor district governor Sok Sambath could be reached yesterday. District deputy governor Sok Penh Vuth said he did not know when the flooding of Village One would be completed or what firm’s future plans were. “I don’t know. You should ask the company,” he said.

This “game” is even going to higher levels. The Phnom Penh Post reported on 26.1.2011 under the headline “Institutions pass the buck on Sochua” about a high level back-and-forth reference, which does not seem to have any exit.

The National Assembly and the Ministry of Justice are passing the buck on the issue of who is responsible for restoring the parliamentary immunity of opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, saying each institution is awaiting an authorization letter from the other.

Earlier this month, the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian called for her immunity to be restored, after the resolution of her high-profile legal spat with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly’s Banking and Finance Committee, said today that the parliament cannot restore Mu Sochua’s immunity unless the Justice Ministry requests it first.

“The court requested firstly that [her immunity] be suspended, so when it happens the court must inform the parliament through the Justice Minister,” Cheam Yeap said.

But Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana said last week that in Mu Sochua’s case, the parliament has to send a letter to the Justice Ministry and that the ministry was still awaiting word.

“I am waiting for a letter from the parliament first,” Ang Vong Vathana told reporters following a legal arbitration workshop in Phnom Penh.

Are there any practical, generally acceptable methods to cut such “circle lines of communication” open so that access to correct public information can be easier achieved? I would appreciate to see some discussion in the “Comments” section of The Mirror.

Norbert KLEIN

This article was first published by The Mirror, Vol. 15, No. 701 – Thursday, 27.1.2011
Have a look at the last editorial - you can access it directly from the main page of The Mirror.

Norbert Klein is the Editor of The Mirror – The Mirror carries regular reports and comments from Cambodia - More about The Mirror


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