Supreme Consultative Council Accused of Inaction

The Government’s Supreme Consultative Council is passive and powerless to do its job, social observers say, citing the lack of help it has given protesting former NagaWorld employees. Photo by Phoung Vantha

Critics cite lack of NagaWorld dispute role

PHNOM PENH--The Government’s Supreme Consultative Council is passive and powerless to do its job, social observers say, citing the lack of help it has given protesting former NagaWorld employees.

The council was set up in August 2018 on an initiative of Prime Minister Hun Sen. It includes members of 15 parties which won no seats in the National Assembly elections that year and which volunteered to become members.

The government wanted to create a multi-party image in the executive branch while the legislature was limited to the ruling party.

However, council members denied the accusation, saying the COVID-19 pandemic caused them to delay meeting people.

Social development researcher Meas Ny said the council was set up only as a good look for the government led by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

It could not find solutions to citizens’ problems.

In the first year, the council actively helped to solve citizens' problems to show the public. However, he said these cases were mostly about main issues, especially land disputes in which people had been threatened by the government and which led to arrests and lawsuits.

“Since then, the council’s members’ performance has gradually begun to diminish up to the present,” he said.  

This mechanism could not replace the one stated in the constitution because only the elected party that has seats in the National Assembly can influence the government.

“It seems too late to review the mechanism of the Supreme Consultative Council because the election is coming up,” he said. “I have not seen the effectiveness of this mechanism, as its mandate is ending soon.”

Pich Sros, president of the Cambodian Youth Party and a council member, said he and other members have always helped solve citizens’ problems, but the work had been delayed because of government restrictions during the pandemic.

“The Supreme Consultative Council cannot work with the people while even the meetings of the council are banned due to COVID-19,” he said.

Otherwise, the council’s analysis would be based on emotional reassons,” he said, adding that the Omicron variant has begun spreading in the community, so the council remains unable to do anything about the NagaWorld case.

Hosting a meeting of the Council of Ministers on May 15, 2020, Hun Sen described the duties of council members, especially in resolving land disputes.

The restriction was that the members are not allowed to settle any disputes that the Prime Minister has resolved and about which they have been notified by the Office of the Council of Ministers.

Members must not settle any land disputes that are being resolved in accordance with the law, resolved by the court, or ones where there has been a verdict or judgment.

Sros said that to avoid misunderstanding, the government forbids members from interfering in land disputes. He said critics should review the duties and rights of the council.

“Technically, Prime Minister did not forbid us. He wants us to study land disputes that are not individual conflicts, referring to the study on land disputes that are among the community, and between the community and the authorities who have the power to cause problems with the citizens,” he said. 

Sros said citizens' land disputes are one thing but in the NagaWorld dispute, former employees who have been protesting for more than a month also need help from all parties involved, including deputies and politicians.

He said that this dispute should be entrusted to labor unions and the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training to resolve. Even so, Sros said he was not ignoring the dispute.

He is watching over the authorities who are resolving the dispute before he gets involved. 

“We will continue to watch and follow up. We cannot interfere without following up on any solution of the authorities and the unions,” he said.

Sek Socheat, executive director of Mindset Development Organization, said political parties on the council should investigate the NagaWorld case and make proposals for its resolution to the government.

Socheat said most protesting citizens face discrimination for political reasons. He criticized the council and other politicians for not stepping in to help.

“We see the way the Supreme Consultative Council works,” he said. There is little or no involvement at all in disputes that are related to politics, especially of the ruling party.

“Members of the Supreme Consultative Council may not be able to help the NagaWorld dispute without any petition from the protesters to them or any party to intervene.”

Socheat believes none of the deputies and politicians in Cambodia seem ready to help solve the citizens' problems and are afraid to intervene. They are playing politics with the lack of will to help people and think only of their own interests and factions.

Pich Sros said that if the NagaWorld dispute keeps being delayed, he will investigate it but he only has the right to investigate the root causes and pass it on to the government.

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