Cambodia’s embattled opposition risks losing its official salaries and government-provided Lexuses if it continues to boycott sessions of the National Assembly, a ruling party spokesman said yesterday.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party began boycotting parliamentary sessions at the end of last month when it pulled out of a vote on the national budget citing safety concerns after two of its politicians were beaten in October.
The CNRP also cited ongoing political tensions that arose from arrest warrants issued for opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who is currently in self-imposed exile after being stripped of his lawmaker status, and the ouster of deputy leader Kem Sokha as first vice president of the National Assembly.
But Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said the CPP was unconcerned with the CNRP’s boycott, as the CPP enjoys a comfortable majority with which to pass laws.
He did say, however, that according to internal regulations, politicians who did not show up to parliament sessions would have their benefits and salaries frozen.
“When [CNRP lawmakers] stop for any duration, the parliament will enforce internal regulations,” Eysan said.
According to Eysan, the heads of each parliamentary commission had recently been given access to government-provided Lexus 570 SUVs, a privilege that would be removed under the freeze.
The freezing of salaries would apply to lawmakers across the board.
Eysan said the decision to enforce the freeze would be up to the parliament’s permanent committee, which is meeting today. He then went on to mock the boycott, saying that the opposition was “afraid of losing our interest” with the scheme.
But CNRP spokesman Yem Ponharith, who is also the head of a commission, hit back, saying that the CNRP did not care about losing salaries or access to Lexuses.
He said that the CNRP remained undecided about whether to boycott parliament’s next plenary session, although it would attend the permanent committee meeting today.
The CNRP has avoided committing to a total stoppage of all parliamentary activity like its yearlong boycott after the disputed 2013 election, which ended in July of 2014.
The party has made what appear to be cautious efforts at re-engaging with parliament following a reported meeting between senior CPP member and Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Kem Sokha on Thursday.