After months of decrying the one-party National Assembly as illegitimate and vowing to amend any flawed legislation passed during a parliamentary boycott, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, by agreeing to take its seats yesterday, is about to get its chance.
In the roughly 10-month period since the boycott began, several laws have sailed through the Cambodian People’s Party-dominated Assembly, including many that could hold vital interest for the CNRP.
Three laws ostensibly aimed at judicial reform were roundly lambasted as undermining the independence of the Kingdom’s courts. Two laws concerning legal cooperation and extradition with Vietnam are sure to agitate party supporters who fear Vietnamese influence. And one, the National Strategic Development Plan 2014-2018, will guide government policy and spending for the rest of its current mandate.
However, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday that while the party will review all of the new legislation in due course, the party will be taking a “wait and see” approach.
“This is work that we have to do later on. We cannot finish a lot of things in one night,” Sovann said.
“The people make the laws and the people can change the laws. It’s a matter of time.”
Observers yesterday differed on whether such an approach was wise. Political analyst Chea Vannath, for one, recommended that the opposition try to take advantage of its “honeymoon” with the CPP while it lasts.
“During that honeymoon, it’s wiser not to tackle the legal issues, but in the long range . . . if they are patient, then the CNRP might raise the issues one by one,” she said, warning that bolder moves might curdle the relationship with the ruling party.
“An aggressive approach doesn’t work,” Vannath added. “I hope that the CNRP is wise enough not to rock the boat when the boat is barely afloat.”
Fellow analyst Kem Ley, however, argued that the party should make its push immediately, before the most controversial laws are signed by the King and put into effect.
“They need to meet with all the members of the commissions; they need to call back those laws, especially the [judicial laws],” he said. “Don’t wait to amend it.”
If the CPP refuses, he continued, the CNRP can use its new parliamentary status to hold public consultations.
“The CNRP can show to the people what is wrong and what is right with the laws,” he said. “The CPP will have no choice. They’ll have to bring those laws back to the National Assembly.”