Ministry of Justice Claims No Need For State of Emergency Yet

Justice Ministry Spokesman Chin Malin defends controversial state of emergency law on April 22. Photo: Royal Government Spokesperson Unit.
  • Phoung Vantha
  • April 22, 2020 8:00 AM

Justice Ministry Spokesman Chin Malin today announced that there is no need to declare a state of emergency in Cambodia, but attempted to justify the controversial draft law in the name of national security.

PHNOM PENH--In a press conference on Wednesday, Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said the Cambodian government doesn't need to put the county in a state of emergency yet. 

Malin pointed out that as of April 22, the situation in Cambodia seems to have improved, but added that the Draft Law on the Management of the Nation during the State of Emergency will be good to prevent any future issues.

“If things are going well, I don't think there is any need to put the state of emergency law into effect,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Health, on April 22 there were no new cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Cambodia, leaving the official number of confirmed cases at 122, with 110 recoveries and zero deaths. 

Malin said that the law is to prevent any future issues, protect people and social order. He argued that the draft law is simply a legal tool in keeping with the constitution, which currently lacks guidance on how the government should manage a state of emergency after one has been declared.  

He noted that Article 22 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia does not specific who should declare a state of emergency or what criteria are needed.

“It is not specifically stated in our law, it has four issues outlined; war, security, life and health, and disaster and states that the three people – the Prime Minister, the President of the National Assembly and the President of the Senate – must be in agreement about declaring a state of emergency,” he added. 

The spokesman also explained that when the draft law is adopted as Cambodian law, it does not mean that the country is placed in a state of emergency. 

“Despite the law allowing for the government to control everything, this law is limited in two measures; first, is it necessary and appropriate to the danger the country faces?  Who controls this measure? Or decides what is suitable for the situation? The head of the Senate and National Assembly have the right to decide and if they are not in agreement, the state of emergency is canceled – if we compare this law to other countries, we are better,” he claimed. 

He suggested that Cambodia’s law for the management of the nation during a state of emergency is important and follows both national and international laws.

The new law will offer sweeping powers to the government and is a serious threat to human and civil rights, according to a range of international observers. United Nations Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a host of other rights-defenders have expressed grave concern over the new law, calling it “a naked power grab” and demanding it be repealed.

On April 10 the National Assembly unanimously adopted the draft law. One week later, the Senate did the same – unanimously voting to adopt the law after Hun Sen had publicly called for the law to be passed swiftly, despite his claims that a state of emergency was not yet necessary.

The draft law will now be forwarded to Constitutional Council—the only body with the power to check the constitutionality of law—and if approved, will be sent to the King to sign it into law. Say Chhum, who is acting head of state while King Norodom Sihamoni is out of the country, is expected to sign the draft law into law.


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