WJP’s ‘rule of law’ rankings unreasonable, official says

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Justice ministry spokesman Chin Malin speaks during a press conference last year. Hong Menea

A senior Ministry of Justice official dismissed the report of World Justice Project (WJP) that ranked Cambodia second from the bottom in its Rule of Law Index 2021 launched on October 14.

Chin Malin, the ministry’s spokesman, said the ranking did not reflect the reality on the ground.

According to the index seen by The Post on October 13, Cambodia was ranked 138th out of 139 countries. It said during the Covid-19 pandemic, the enforcement of the rule of law in countries around the world had deteriorated. In addition, 4.7 per cent of the world population, or equivalent to 6.5 billion people, lived in the countries where the rule of law was diminishing.

The index ranked three countries that strongly adhered to the rule of law, with Denmark, Norway and Finland ranking first, second and third respectively.

Three countries were sent to the bottom of the index, with Venezuela, Cambodia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo ranking 139th, 138th and 137th respectively.

In 2020, WJP ranked Cambodia at 127 out of 128 countries.

Malin said the WJP ranking did not reflect the reality in Cambodia and the international context during the Covid-19 pandemic. He said representatives from some countries had criticised Cambodia for implementing the Covid-19-related law, but those countries eventually had to enforce many measures and even stricter ones than what have been enforced in Cambodia, such as lockdowns and mandatory vaccinations, among many others, he said.

“Therefore, downgrading Cambodia and making the country worse than others is unreasonable. The ranking should be based on other sources or data such as from civil society or an opposition group otherwise there could be a wrong result.”

WJP said the Rule of Law Index 2021 had surveyed more than 138,000 families and over 4,200 legal enforcement officials and experts around the world. It said the rule of law referred to legal standards and the commitment to provide accountability, just law, open government, and access of justice.

Rights group Adhoc spokesman Soeng Sen Karuna said it was not unusual that the WJP had placed Cambodia in the bottom rankings as it is similar to previous years.

He said legal enforcement as well as rule of law in Cambodia had received strong criticisms, especially regarding social justice for poor people, politics, freedom of expression made by analysts and human rights activists.

“Based on these arguments, the evaluation for Cambodia reflects the criticisms,” he said.