The Cambodian People’s Party yesterday threatened to freeze the salaries of opposition lawmakers boycotting parliament – and take away their government cars.
CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun said the National Assembly’s Standing Committee had resolved to have the parliament’s secretariat, and the economy and finance commission look into punitive actions against CNRP lawmakers who have not attended parliament since police attempted to arrest the party’s acting president, Kem Sokha, in May.
“If you work, you will get a salary. But if [the boycott] continues, the National Assembly will face problems with the people, because we, the government, are paying salaries to lawmakers who are not working,” he said.
Citing articles 70, 71 and 72 of the National Assembly’s internal rules, Vun said the body could not allow the CNRP lawmakers to continue their boycott of parliament.
“Do they have right to use the National Assembly’s cars to serve their party?” he queried. “The cars are assigned to serve the assembly.”
Reacting to Vun’s comments, CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said the rules applied only to individual, errant lawmakers who missed meetings or consistently did not attend parliament.
The party, he said, was not attending parliament because they felt the institution was not functioning properly and had requested corrective measures.
“We sent a letter a month ago to the National Assembly president to correct the institutional wrongdoings, where authorities are allowed to arrest lawmakers who have immunity,” he said. “We have said clearly that this is the reason we are not attending.”
He said the CPP had ensured that opposition lawmakers were not paid from 2013 to 2014 following the deadlock over the 2013 national elections, but this was not a deterrent.
“It is not going to stop us from raising our concerns,” he said. “We are not afraid, and we will not let these threats stop us from raising our issues.”
The CNRP has called the arrests of opposition MP Um Sam An and Sam Rainsy Party Senator Hong Sok Hour, as well as the judicial proceedings against Sokha, politically motivated, and has vowed to stay away from parliament till lawmaker immunity was respected by the authorities.
The party even recently boycotted a session with Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana, who they had summoned to answer questions regarding the politicisation of the judiciary.
As the two major parties continue to spar, political analyst Chea Vannath yesterday said the CPP should exercise political maturity to defuse the tense political climate, adding that both parties needed to “relax”.
Vannath said the country’s democratic standing was at stake and it seemed the executive, judiciary and legislature were all under the control of the ruling party.
“No party gains from this increased political tension,” she said. “This is already affecting the democratic values of the country.”
Meanwhile, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said an investigation into a petition sent by the CNRP to King Norodom Sihamoni asking for his intervention into the political crisis, would be concluded on June 30, and again threatened CNRP lawmaker Yem Ponhearith with legal action.
“Yem Ponhearith’s immunity cannot defend him from his mistake of delivering fake thumbprints to the King,” Sopheak said. “Ponhearith is sleeping in fear. He can hide like Kem Sokha.”
Speaking to supporters at the CNRP office, Ponhearith said he was only delivering the people’s petition, which is a lawmaker’s responsibility, adding that he would wait to see what legal action would be initiated against him.