|Cambodia Table of Contents
An administrative infrastructure, functioning under the KPRC, was more or less in place between 1979 and 1980. With the promulgation of the Constitution in June 1981, new organs, such as the National Assembly, the Council of State, and the Council of Ministers, assumed KPRC functions. These new bodies evolved slowly. It was not until February 1982 that the National Assembly enacted specific law for these bodies.
The National Assembly
The "supreme organ of state power" is the National Assembly, whose deputies are directly elected for five-year terms. The assembly's 117 seats were filled on May 1, 1981, the date of the PRK's first elections. (The KNUFNS had nominated 148 candidates.) The voter turnout was reported as 99.17 percent of the electorate, which was divided into 20 electoral districts.
During its first session, held from June 24 to June 27, the assembly adopted the new Constitution and elected members of the state organs set up under the Constitution. The assembly had been empowered to adopt or to amend the Constitution and the laws and to oversee their implementation; to determine domestic and foreign policies; to adopt economic and cultural programs and the state budget; and to elect or to remove its own officers and members of the Council of State and of the Council of Ministers. The assembly also was authorized to levy, revise, or abolish taxes; to decide on amnesties; and to ratify or to abrogate international treaties. As in other socialist states, the assembly's real function is to endorse the legislative and administrative measures initiated by the Council of State and by the Council of Ministers, both of which serve as agents of the ruling KPRP.
The National Assembly meets twice a year and may hold additional sessions if needed. During the periods between its sessions, legislative functions are handled by the Council of State. Bills are introduced by the Council of State, the Council of Ministers, the assembly's several commissions (legislative committees), chairman of the KUFNCD, and heads of other organizations. Individual deputies are not entitled to introduce bills.
Once bills, state plans and budgets, and other measures are introduced, they are studied first by the assembly's commissions, which deal with legislation, economic planning, budgetary matters, and cultural and social affairs. Then they go to the assembly for adoption. Ordinary bills are passed by a simple majority (by a show of hands). Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority. The Council of State must promulgate an adopted bill within thirty days of its passage. Another function of the assembly is to oversee the affairs of the Council of Ministers, which functions as the cabinet. Assembly members may make inquiries of cabinet officials, but they are not entitled to call for votes of confidence in the cabinet. Conversely, the Council of Ministers is not empowered to dissolve the National Assembly.
The Constitution states that in case of war or under "other exceptional circumstances," the five-year life of the Assembly may be extended by decree. In 1986 the assembly's term was extended for another five years, until 1991.
The Council of State
The National Assembly elects seven of its members to the Council of State. After the assembly's five-year term, council members remain in office until a new assembly elects a new council. The chairman of the council serves as the head of state, but the power to serve as ex officio supreme commander of the armed forces was deleted from the final draft of the Constitution.
The council's seven members are among the most influential leaders of the PRK. Between sessions of the National Assembly, the Council of State carries out the assembly's duties. It may appoint or remove--on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers-- cabinet ministers, ambassadors, and envoys accredited to foreign governments. In addition, the Council of State organizes elections to the National Assembly, convenes regular and special sessions of the assembly, promulgates and interprets the Constitution and the laws, reviews judicial decisions, rules on pardons and on commutations of sentences, and ratifies or abrogates treaties. Foreign diplomatic envoys present their letters of accreditation to the Council of State.
The Council of Ministers
The government's top executive organ is the Council of Ministers, or cabinet, which in late 1987 was headed by Hun Sen (as it had been since January 1985). Apart from the prime minister (formally called chairman), the Council of Ministers has two deputy prime ministers (vice chairmen) and twenty ministers. The National Assembly elects the council's ministers for five-year terms. They are responsible collectively to the assembly. When the assembly is not in session, they are responsible to the Council of State. The prime minister must be a member of the assembly; other council members, however, need not be. The council's five-year term continues without hiatus until a new cabinet is formed after general elections.
The Council of Ministers meets weekly in an executive session, which is attended by the prime minister, the deputy prime ministers, and a chief of staff who is called the Minister in Charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers. The executive group prepares an agenda for deliberation and adoption by the council's monthly plenary session. (A secretary general of the Council of Ministers provides administrative support for the cabinet.) The executive group also addresses measures for implementing the plenary session's decisions, and it reviews and coordinates the work of government agencies at all levels. Decisions made in the executive sessions are "collective," whereas those in the plenary sessions are by a majority. Representatives of KUFNCD and other mass organizations, to which all citizens may belong, may be invited to attend plenary sessions of the council "when [it is] discussing important issues." These representatives may express their views but they are not allowed to vote.
Government ministries are in charge of agriculture; communications, transport, and posts; education; finance; foreign affairs; health; home and foreign trade; industry; information and culture; interior; justice; national defense; planning; and social affairs and invalids. In addition, the cabinet includes a minister for agricultural affairs and rubber plantations, who is attached to the Office of the Council of Ministers; a minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers; a secretary general of the Office of the Council of Ministers, who is also in charge of transport and of Khmer-Thai border defense networks; a director of the State Affairs Inspectorate; and the president-director general of the People's National Bank of Kampuchea.
The Office of the Council of Ministers serves as the administrative nerve center of the government. Directed by its cabinet-rank minister, this office is supposed "to prepare, facilitate, coordinate, unify, and guide all activities of individual ministries and localities." Fiscal inspection of public institutions is the responsibility of the State Affairs Inspectorate, which has branch offices in all provinces.
The restoration of law and order has been one of the more pressing tasks of the Heng Samrin regime. Since 1979 the administration of justice has been in the hands of people's revolutionary courts that were set up hastily in Phnom Penh and in other major provincial cities. A new law dealing with the organization of courts and with the Office of Public Prosecutor was promulgated in February 1982. Under this law, the People's Supreme Court became the highest court of the land.
The judicial system comprises the people's revolutionary courts, the military tribunals, and the public prosecutors' offices. The Council of State may establish additional courts to deal with special cases. The Council of Ministers, on the recommendations of local administrative bodies called people's revolutionary committees, appoints judges and public prosecutors. Two or three people's councillors (the equivalents of jurors or of assessors) assist the judges, and they have the same power as the judges in passing sentence.
Local People's Revolutionary Committees
In late 1987, the country was divided into eighteen provinces (khet) and two special municipalities (krong), Phnom Penh and Kampong Saom, which are under direct central government control. The provinces were subdivided into about 122 districts (srok), 1,325 communes (khum), and 9,386 villages (phum). The subdivisions of the municipalities were wards (sangkat).
An elective body, consisting of a chairman (president), one or more vice chairmen, and a number of committee members, runs each people's revolutionary committee. These elective bodies are chosen by representatives of the next lower level people's revolutionary committees at the provincial and district levels. At the provincial and district levels, where the term of office is five years, committee members need the additional endorsement of officials representing the KUFNCD and other affiliated mass organizations. At the commune and ward level, the members of the people's revolutionary committees are elected directly by local inhabitants for a three-year term.
Before the first local elections, which were held in February and March 1981, the central government appointed local committee officials. In late 1987, it was unclear whether the chairpersons of the local revolutionary committees reported to the Office of the Council of Ministers or to the Ministry of Interior.
More about the Government and Politics of Cambodia.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress