Ending their almost two-month boycott of parliament, opposition lawmakers yesterday joined their ruling party counterparts at the National Assembly in unanimously passing three laws.
The plenary session, attended by 68 Cambodian People’s Party parliamentarians and 34 from the opposition Cambodia Nation Rescue Party, was by and large routine, though one CNRP lawmaker complained about being warned by his leaders not to engage in debate to ensure a peaceful session.
Lawmakers ratified an amendment to the Marrakesh Agreement, which underpins the World Trade Organization; approved legislation creating an ASEAN biodiversity centre; and passed the draft law on animal health and production.
CNRP deputy Lim Kim Ya said he had wanted to discuss some of articles within the bills during the plenary session but was advised by his party to avoid further straining political tensions.
Specifically, Kim Ya said the wording in the international conventions was unclear and, if not properly considered, such legislation may prove difficult to implement.
“I believe that more than half of lawmakers do not understand these words, and especially if [we] use foreign language, it is not proper,” Kim Ya said, adding that he wanted Cambodian legislation to provide “thorough” protection, particularly for the environment.
“I wanted to give some of my ideas, but our party . . . to avoid worsening the atmosphere, they did not let me express this point.”
CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith denied members had been told to stay silent, saying it was just too late in the process for Kim Ya’s input.
The CNRP boycott began after the October 26 assault of two of its lawmakers outside parliament by a group of pro-government protesters who were calling for CNRP acting president Kem Sokha to be removed as the assembly’s first vice president.
Tensions worsened after Sokha was stripped of the position on October 29 and plummeted after CNRP president Sam Rainsy was slammed with three lawsuits, beginning on November 13 with the resurrection of a two-year prison term for defaming Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in 2008.
Rainsy, abroad at the time, remains in self-imposed exile in Europe.
Last week, the parties pledged to cooperate after a meeting between Sokha and Interior Minister Sar Kheng.
The pair also met on the sidelines of yesterday’s session, though no details of their discussion emerged.