Search form

Login - Register | FOLLOW US ON

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Intense NA debate ends in compromise

Intense NA debate ends in compromise

A FTER three days of intense debate the National Assembly was able to transform a

divisive bill to outlaw the Khmer Rouge into a law which was acceptable to all

MPs present.

The first salvo in the battle over the bill was fired by

the Finance Minister Sam Rainsy at a talk at the Foreign Correspondent's Club on

June 29. Rainsy passionately spelled out his reasons for complete opposition to

the bill. He sounded alarm bells about the human rights implications of the bill

and he argued passing the law could lead to a police state. With MPs finding

themselves under enormous pressure to vote for the law, the Finance Minister

could only find 15 supporters among them.

However by Tuesday morning,

July 5 Rainsy had changed his tack completely. He told the National Assembly:

"No one opposes the draft law. I support the government but we want to have the

very best law. We want to avoid human rights violations."

On Monday July

4 in the National Assembly 15 MPs who were against the bill made a motion that

discussion of the bill be deferred for a week.

But Funcinpec MP So Chi

noted that the number of MPs supporting the bill was 96, and that the proposal

of the 15 MPs should be considered outvoted already.

The Second Prime

Minister Hun Sen proposed the first compromise. He said: "The majority of the

National Assembly was in favor of including the bill on the agenda.

"If

Kem Sokha, [Chairman of the National Assembly Commission on Human Rights], is

worried about human rights and violence the bill could be amended during

debate."

Monday's National Assembly meeting ended with a vote to include

the bill on the agenda and a vote to place the bill as the first item on the

agenda.

The following are unofficial translations of excerpts from the

National Assembly debate. Subject headings appear in italics.

Why is

the law necessary?

Chheang Vun, CPP, said: "The National Assembly and

the government have tried to solve this problem peacefully but have

failed."

Minister of Justice Chem Snguon, CPP, said: "The Khmer Rouge has

been outside the law since late 1979 when the people's court tried them.

"After the signing of the Paris Peace Accords the Khmer Rouge were legal

but they did not respect the accords and did not even create a political party.

"They are already outside the law. In the political platform of the

Royal Government the Khmer Rouge is already outlawed. But a neighboring country

still recognizes the group. So, we should pass a law saying that the Khmer Rouge

is outlawed."

Dith Munthy, Secretary of State for Defense and CPP MP,

said: "Is the KR autonomous zone against the Constitution? Is Sam Rainsy

protecting the KR or the people? At the UN the KR were ousted and the Royal

Government took the seat. The Royal Government cannot be blamed for outlawing

the KR. The KR were tried with experts from Canada and the US and found guilty

of genocide in 1980."

Minister of State for Inspection Ung Phan,

Funcinpec, asked several questions during the debate: "Can the proposal bring

any economic aid? Does the proposal talk about the neighboring country? Will the

passing of the law result in more military aid from foreign countries, and will

getting that military aid reduce the amount of economic aid that we will

receive?"

Nov Pena, CPP, said: "Can Sam Rainsy talk and solve the problem

with the Khmer Rouge through peaceful negotiations?"

Rainsy said: "We all

hold the common view seriously condemning the Khmer Rouge for their actions in

the period of 1975-1979.

"Further, we condemn the Khmer Rouge who oppose

the cease-fire, and we want to eliminate the disastrous actions of the Khmer

Rouge. We all want to eliminate them. The proposal, will it be effective in

eliminating them?"

Cheam Yeap said: "Our country needs the proposal

urgently. The time is ripe to have the proposal. After the signing of the

Constitution by the King the Khmer Rouge still retained an autonomous zone which

was unconstitutional."

Who are the Khmer Rouge?

Monk Sophan said:

"Do we arrest just the soldier or all his family, his babies...?"

So Chi

said: "We should never arrest the children of the accused."

Should the

KR be denounced for failing to form a political party?

Kan Morn,

Funcinpec, said: "We should not include the phrase 'The Khmer Rouge did not

enroll its political party in the UN sponsored elections,' in the

law."

Sot Say, Funcinpec, said: "I agree with Kan Morn."

So Chi

said: "If we erase this phrase, these two MPs should resign and their seats

should be given to two Khmer Rouge. The two MPs are protecting the Khmer Rouge

by failing to criticize them for not enrolling in the elections as a political

party."

Revising Article 3 of the Law. Article 3 detailed criminal and

political acts done by the KR without specifying any consequences under the law

of the actions.

Sam Rainsy said: "Article 3 is not useful. It is not

a law but a political statement. The meaning of the article charges the group

with responsibility which is like collective responsibility in Communism. You

should not condemn everyone in the group. The author of this law is not a

lawyer."

Chem Snguon said: "Sam Rainsy is a coward. He threatened to

resign, but he did not. Rainsy wants the return of the Khmer Rouge. Lawyers in

Cambodia are not as foolish as Rainsy is."

Loy Sim Chheang, Funcinpec,

said: "Article 3 is not completely mistaken, we do not need to delete it, only

to modify it.

Rainsy said: "I am sorry if I have made Chem Snguon angry.

I only want the very best law. I speak honestly. Why am I charged with being a

Khmer Rouge?

"If I can be charged with being a Khmer Rouge, what about

the people? It would be easier [to charge them]. During the electoral process

many Funcinpec members were killed after being charged with being Khmer

Rouge."

The potential for the law to lead to human rights abuses.

Kem Sokha, BLDP, said: "We want a law that does not allow the Khmer

Rouge to accuse us of being like the Khmer Rouge. Is the court independent? Does

it have sufficient judges? The people can be accused of being Khmer Rouge by

government soldiers just because the Khmer Rouge can enter their village at

night."

Chem Snguon said: "I accept that there are not enough judges but

most of them are not corrupt. I guarantee that no person will be charged with

being Khmer Rouge without sufficient evidence."

Should the Amnesty

period be extended?

A motion was made by Son Chhay, BLDP, to extend

the amnesty period from two months to six months.

He said: "Two months is

not long enough to allow the Khmer Rouge to surrender. Khmer Rouge soldiers will

have to kill their commanders in order to surrender to the government. After the

two months is up they will not dare to surrender."

Should the vote be

secret?

Sam Rainsy said: "In accordance with Article 40 of the

Constitution there should be a secret vote. If there is an open vote we will be

afraid of the Khmer Rouge if we agree, and of internal intimidation if we

disagree."

Chem Snguon said: "I disagree with Sam Rainsy's interpretation

of Article 40. There should not be a secret vote."

Co-Minister of

Interior You Hokry, Funcinpec, said: "We should not be afraid of

anyone."

The most important changes to the bill were that it was amended

to explicitly mention the King's Constitutional power to grant pardons to KR

cadre; the amnesty period for low-ranking KR soldiers was lengthened to six

months and explicit protections were added to the bill for those people unjustly

charged with being KR.

The General Secretary of the National Assembly,

Lieutenant General Tol Lah, said : "Prolonged, detailed and extensive debate

resulted in a compromise bill that took into account the concerns of the

minority.

"It was my impression that as the members of the National

Assembly met and debated, each side began to understand the concerns of the

other.

"I think the members understood that they all wanted a good bill.

The minority understood the good will on the majority side, and the majority saw

the same in the minority concerns.

"In the end they achieved a consensus

on a bill that both achieves the government aim and protects human

rights."

One issue raised during the debate but never resolved was the

question of retroactivity.The BDLP's Son Soubert asked: "Will this law have

retroactive effect?" Without a vote it was decided to allow the courts to make

individual judgements. Some MPs argued that with respect to the crime of

genocide, retroactivity would not present legal problems.

0

Comments

Please, login or register to post a comment

Latest Video

Turkish Embassy calls for closure of Zaman schools

With an attempted coup against the government of President Recep Erdogan quashed only days ago and more than 7,000 alleged conspirators now under arrest, the Turkish ambassador to Cambodia yesterday pressed the govern

CNRP lawmakers beaten

Two opposition lawmakers, Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Sakphea were beaten unconscious during protests in Phnom Penh, as over a thousand protesters descended upon the National Assembly.

Student authors discuss "The Cambodian Economy"

Student authors discuss "The Cambodian Economy"

Students at Phnom Penh's Liger Learning Center have written and published a new book, "The Cambodian Economy".