Understanding Rule of Law in Cambodia

Rule of Law is a principle of governance that, according to the UN’s Report of the Secretary General on the Rule of Law, guarantees that a nation’s government, institutions and people are “accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards” (http://www.un.org/en/ruleoflaw/). Proper rule of law demands that no one person or institution is above the law, demanding accountability and fairness that would protect people from arbitrary or corrupt judicial or governmental systems.

A summary chart of the doctrine and its interpretation in the Cambodian legal system follows below. For a PDF copy, see here: ROL Chart.


Citizens and those who govern them should obey the law so that no one is above the law. It is a requirement that there be institutional checks and balances built into government to prevent tyranny and

counteract politicization.

Nadia Nedzel, ‘The Rule Of Law: Its History And Meaning In Common Law, Civil Law, and Latin American Judicial Systems’ 10 Richmond Journal of Global Law & Business 58.
1) A citizen’s obligation to obey the law

(the law and order component), and
2) The government’s subservience

to the law (the limited government component)

Michel Rosenfeld, The Rule of Law and the Legitimacy of Constitutional

Democracy (2001), 74 Southern California Law Review 1307, 1335-36.

Organises how national authorities (executive, legislature, judicature and media) are exercised in order to protect individuals and hold everyone accountable under the law. The World Justice Project
“The government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand – rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances and to plan one’s individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge” F.A. Hayek, The Road To Serfdom: Texts And Documents, 112 (Bruce Caldwell ed., Univ. of Chi. Press 2007) (1944).
Cambodian Law
Article 51:
“The Kingdom of Cambodia adopts a policy of Liberal Democracy and Pluralism”
“The Legislative, Executive, and the Judicial powers shall be separate.”
Cambodian Constitution

EXECUTIVE POWER à Checks Judiciary

Article 91:
“The deputies and the Prime Minister shall have the right to initiate legislation.

The deputies shall have the right to propose any amendments to the laws, but, the proposals shall be unacceptable if they aim at reducing public income or increasing the burden on the people.

Cambodian Constitution
Article 7:
The Executive is the Council of Ministers which is the Royal Government of Cambodia. It shall be led by one Prime Minister and not by the King.
Cambodian Constitution
Article 2:
Executive checks Judiciary by sending one member of the Ministry of Justice to the SCM
Law on Organization and Function of the Supreme Council of Magistracy

JUDICIAL POWER à Checks Media, Executive and Legislature

Article 136:
“The Constitutional Council shall have the duty to safeguard the respect for the Constitution, to interpret the Constitution, and the laws passed by the Assembly and examined by the Senate.”
Cambodian Constitution
Article 39:
“Khmer citizens shall have the right to denounce, make complaints or file claims against any breach of the law by state and social organs or by members of such organs committed during the course of their duties. The settlement of complaints and claims shall be the competence of the courts.”
Cambodian Constitution
Article 129:
Trials shall be conducted in the name of the Khmer citizens in accordance with the legal procedures and laws in force.

Only judges shall have the right to adjudicate. A judge shall fulfil this duty with strict respect for the laws, wholeheartedly and conscientiously.

Cambodian Constitution
Article 19:
Court asks Constitutional Council to check the constitutionality of laws
Law on the Constitutional Council
Judiciary checks media through the application of Press Law, Civil Law and Criminal Law  

LEGISLATIVE POWER à Checks Judiciary

Article 135:
Legislation makes specific laws about the role and function of the Judiciary, Statute on Judges, Law on Supreme Council of Magistracy

Cambodian Constitution

MEDIA POWER à Checks Judiciary, Legislature and Executive

Article 19:
Media checks judiciary by attending public court hearings, reporting and giving critical comments about them.
Article 41:
“Khmer citizens shall have freedom of expression, press, publication and assembly. No one shall exercise this right to infringe upon the rights of others, to effect the good traditions of the society, to violate public law and order and national security.

The regime of the media shall be determined by law”

Cambodian Constitution

Chart authored by Yumna Arif.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s