Constitution and rights

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia was officially promulgated by Royal Kram on 24 September 1993. Image designed by Open Development Cambodia (ODC), 10 September 2021. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

The 1993 Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia is the supreme law of the country. The Constitution was made with the support of of the United Nations and the international community in compliance with the 1991 Paris Agreement and is based on modern principles such as democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, and separation of powers:

  • Legislative power: The National Assembly and the Senate
  • Executive power: The Council of Ministers – The Royal Government of Cambodia
  • Judicial power: The Supreme Court and the Constitutional Council.

The Constitution also reflects historical and traditional characteristics of the Kingdom: kingship, state religions and state institutions.1 The Constitution has been revised eight times in twenty-six years, in 19942, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2014 and 2018.3 4  In 2004, an additional legal procedure was adopted after a post-election constitutional crisis. This allows members of the National Assembly at the first meeting of a new mandate to modify the Constitution with an absolute majority of votes where there is a political crisis.5 The present Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia consists of 17 chapters:

    • Chapter I: Sovereignty
    • Chapter II: The King
    • Chapter III: The Rights and Obligations of Khmer Citizens
    • Chapter IV: On Policy
    • Chapter V: Economy
    • Chapter VI: Education, Culture, Social Affairs
    • Chapter VII: The National Assembly
    • Chapter VIII: The Senate
    • Chapter IX: The Assembly and the Senate
    • Chapter X: The Royal Government
    • Chapter XI: The Judiciary
    • Chapter XII: The Constitutional Council
    • Chapter XIII: The Administration
    • Chapter XIV: The National Congres
    • Chapter XV : Election Organization
    • Chapter XVI : Effects, Revisions and Amendments of the Constitution
    • Chapter XVII: Transitional Provisions.

The fundamental rights of Khmer citizens

The Constitution claims to recognize and respect all fundamental human rights in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenants and Conventions related to Human Rights, women’s rights and children’s rights6, and also a set of fundamental rights that are described by the Constitution7. Since 2003, the Royal Government of Cambodia has undertaken judicial and legal reform in order to ensure the effectiveness of the rule of law and the protection of human rights, which are protected by the Constitution. Thus, the government has established reform strategies, the most recent of which is the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2014–2018 and the Rectangular Strategy, which identify the priority actions to be carried out. These included the modernization of the legal framework, better dissemination and enforcement of the law, better and more significant allocation of resources for the functioning of the judiciary, the police and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms8. In 2014, three significant new laws were adopted : the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, the Law on the Statute of Judges and Prosecutors and the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Courts. Phase 4 of the NSDP, published in 2018, continues to address government action in the search for more effective justice and a better guarantee of constitutional rights.9

These rights  can be found in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia including:10

    • The rights to equality before the law, and freedom from discrimination
    • Right to life, freedom and personal security, and freedom from capital punishment
    • Freedom from deprivation of nationality, and freedom from deportation
    • Right to vote and stand as candidates for an election
    • Right to participate actively in political, economic, social and cultural life of the nation
    • Right to work, right to obtain social security, and right to form trade unions
    • Right to strike and right to organize peaceful demonstrations
    • Right to human dignity, freedom from torture, right to due process, right to defend him/herself, right to be innocent until having final conviction by the court
    • Right of petition or of making complaints for compensation for damages caused by any break of law by institutions of the state
    • Freedom of movement, and right to privacy of residence, of communication and of correspondence
    • Freedom of expression, freedom of information, freedom of assembly
    • Right to establish associations and political parties
    • Right to freedom of religion and belief
    • Right to private ownership
    • Right to equality between men and women, and right to non-discrimination against women, and rights to marriage
    • Right to freely sell products
    • Right to obtain public and social welfare for improving the standard of living, of education, and of health.

These basic rights and freedoms are not absolute and are restricted by laws based on the right of others, public order, national security, social justice, public and social welfare, and the good moral and customs of Khmer society.11

The fundamental duties of Khmer citizens imposed by the Constitution

For individuals, the Constitution imposes five duties:

    • Duty of parents and children to take good care of each other12
    • Duty to respect the Constitution and Laws13
    • Duty to take part in national reconstruction and to defend the motherland14
    • Duty to respect the principle of national sovereignty and liberal multi-party democracy
    • Duty to respect the public property and legally acquired private property.15

For the State, the Constitution imposes the duty and right to:

    • Protect and promote women, children and disabled persons
    • Protect independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation
    • Protect national unity, protect good customs and traditions of the nation
    • Protect legality, public order and national security
    • Promote public and social welfare and social justice
    • Preserve and protect natural environment
    • Promote economic development
    • Protect the price and products for the farmers and crafters and find marketplace for them
    • Protect and promote the quality of education.
    • Preserve, protect and promote national culture, Khmer language, ancient temples and artifacts and protect historic sites
    • Establish a social security system.

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