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Heavily armed police surround Kem Sokha’s car (right) in Phnom Penh earlier this year in an attempt to arrest the opposition leader after he didn’t appear in court. Photo supplied
Heavily armed police surround Kem Sokha’s car (right) in Phnom Penh earlier this year in an attempt to arrest the opposition leader after he didn’t appear in court. Photo supplied

CNRP to return to National Assembly

The bulk of the CNRP’s 55 lawmakers will attend this morning’s session of the National Assembly, ending a four-month old boycott of parliament, a senior lawmaker said yesterday. But the group may not include deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha.

The party had been boycotting plenary sessions of the assembly since police tried to arrest Sokha on May 26, but a cooling of tensions with the CPP in recent weeks led to the CNRP’s acting president emerging from hiding this week for the first time since May.

CNRP lawmaker Ho Vann said the lawmakers would attend this morning’s session but that Sokha himself may remain in the safety of the opposition headquarters in Meanchey district, where he returned shortly after exiting to register to vote on Wednesday.

“Mr President has not yet decided, but for us, we will go,” Vann said, explaining that some lawmakers would be absent for personal reasons but that the boycott was over. “We want meetings to negotiate and solve the many national problems we have not solved.”

Today’s sitting will deal with eight agenda items, including passing a report on the assembly’s recent activities, voting for the auditor-general and deputy auditors-general to run the National Auditing Authority, and a new law governing health clinics.

Vann said the CNRP would attend the meeting hoping to be constructive and take each item on its merits, rather than simply voting against the CPP.

“If it is good, we will not. But for the law on health businesses, we must express ourselves too, because this has many problems that affect society,” he said.

The CPP has in past months appeared to be pushing the CNRP to end its boycott, with ruling party lawmakers last week even proposing new rules that would cut the salary of anyone absent from parliamentary sessions without permission.

Yet with an easy majority in the assembly, the CPP can pass any law with or without the CNRP, and Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday used a speech to graduating students on Koh Pich yesterday to tell the CNRP he did not care whether they came or not.

“There’s nothing to worry about,” Hun Sen said. “If they join, it’s like this; if they don’t join, it’s like this.”

The CNRP’s latest boycott is not the first time since its lawmakers accepted their seats in August 2014 that it has refused to attend assembly sessions in protest of the treatment of its senior officials.

After two CNRP lawmakers were assaulted outside the parliament in October last year, the lawmakers refused to attend sessions until their safety was guaranteed, but ended up sitting for meetings in April to oppose Hun Sen’s cabinet reshuffle.

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