On November 3, 2021, the king of Cambodia, Norodom Sihamoni, promulgated the ninth amendment to the country’s Constitution of 1993 by Royal Kram NS/RKM/1121/016. The new amendment modifies the provisions of articles 19, 82, 106, 119, and 137 of the Constitution to ban the holders of the nation’s four highest offices from having dual citizenships. Those positions are the prime minister, the president of the National Assembly, the president of the Senate, and the president of the Constitutional Council.
The amendment became effective the next day in accordance with a constitutional provision mandating that urgent laws come into force immediately after promulgation. (Const. art. 93, ¶ 2.)
Rationale of the Ninth Amendment and Its Connection to the Pandora Papers
The move to draft the ninth amendment reportedly came in quick response to a report referring to the Pandora Papers, a leak of around 12 million documents compiled by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. (See key findings from the Pandora Papers.) On October 3, 2021, the British media outlet the Guardian, citing these documents, published an article that in part claimed that Prime Minister Hun Sen “was discovered to have been among the thousands of non-Europeans who received a Cypriot passport.” On October 6, 2021, Cambodia sent a letter to the Guardian rejecting the claim, demanding an immediate retraction, and threatening legal action, and another letter to Cyprus’ justice minister for cooperation. The Guardian, on the same day, amended its article to say “some members of the Cambodian leader Hun Sen’s inner circle” acquired Cypriot passports and to acknowledge that its previous version was incorrect, and additionally sent Cambodia an apology email.
Also on October 6, 2021, Prime Minister Sen ordered Cambodia’s justice ministry to study a possible amendment to the country’s constitution to prevent any Khmer citizen with a foreign passport from holding these top posts. He also said in a Facebook post that this amendment was for the office holders “to show loyalty to the nation and avoid foreign interference.”
After the Constitution was amended, Prime Minister Sen clarified that the prohibition on dual citizenships applies only to the four offices and not to other public officials.
History of Cambodia’s Constitution
Cambodia’s current Constitution (original in Khmer and unofficial English translation) was promulgated on September 24, 1993, to become the sixth constitution of the country. Cambodia’s first constitution (unofficial English translation) was adopted in 1947 after Cambodia was granted autonomy within the French Union in 1946 (but before it gained full independence in 1953). The second, third, fourth, and fifth constitutions were made in 1972, 1976, 1981, and 1989, respectively, due to regime changes. Before this new 2021 amendment, the Constitution of 1993 had been amended eight times (1994, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2014, and 2018).Prepared by Pichrotanak Bunthan, Legal Research Fellow, under the supervision of Sayuri Umeda, Senior Foreign Law Specialist