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Assembly back, CNRP not

Nearly half of the National Assembly’s seats remain vacant during the first meeting of the newly formed parliament in Phnom Penh in September
Nearly half of the National Assembly’s seats remain vacant during the first meeting of the newly formed parliament in Phnom Penh in September. Heng Chivoan

Assembly back, CNRP not

The Kingdom’s fifth National Assembly is to open its second session today, more than six months after the opposition party boycotted the inauguration of parliament on September 23 and left 68 Cambodian People’s Party lawmakers to swear-in at the Royal Palace on their own.

According to senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, this session of parliament will see lawmakers debate the implementation of the 2012 budget – evaluation of past budgets happen every year – and pass a draft law on roads, among other activities.

“There will be five items on the agenda [for this session], and we would like to request all lawmakers to join the session together,” he said.

Yeap added that while the parliament had sent an official letter to the Cambodia National Rescue Party inviting its members to take their seats and join the session, he did not expect that it would take up the offer.

This would not matter, he said, as the 68 CPP lawmakers who had taken their seats were capable of debating and discussing laws on their own.

“Whether or not the [CNRP] joins the session is up to them. I am not bothered by them not joining until 2018.”

The CNRP, which rejected the official results of July’s poll, are demanding either an investigation into election irregularities or early polls, along with extensive election reform.

Opposition party representatives yesterday reiterated that they would not join parliament until their demands are met.

Ho Vann, a senior CNRP lawmaker-elect, confirmed that his party had received the official invitation from the National Assembly but was not interested in the request.

“Why should we look at it? We will not join the session. [We] just looked at the cover page of the letter and saw that they invited everyone, but no one is interested because [we] will not go to the meeting,”
he said.

Son Chhay, CNRP whip and head of the party’s negotiating team with the CPP on election reform, said laws passed by a parliament representing only one party were “illegitimate”.

“It would be better for the CPP to wait for the CNRP to take part after [a] political resolution [is reached],” he said.

Following the fourth meeting of a joint election reform committee last week that ended in discord over National Election Committee reform, the opposition asked to postpone further meetings in favour of face-to-face talks between CNRP leader Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Yeap yesterday urged the CNRP to write an official letter to make that request, which Chhay indicated would occur.

“I think the CNRP has clearly suggested that the top leaders could meet anytime . . . [But] if they suggest there should be a formal letter, we should do that. We are just waiting for an official response from the CPP,” the CNRP whip said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH

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