The government has found a novel new way of applying pressure to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party in an attempt to get it to join the National Assembly.
Senior Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap yesterday called out the CNRP for using “illegal” licence plates, which are issued by the National Assembly to elected representatives.
CNRP lawmakers are still using plates issued under the previous government, he said, adding that he had requested that the “competent authorities” take action.
“The secretariat of the National Assembly has already asked that the Ministry of Public Works [take action],” he said. “We have already issued new numbers from 1 to 123 [for parliamentarians]. This is the fifth mandate, not the fourth mandate anymore.”
Yeap said that parliament had issued 123 new plates – 68 for CPP officials and 55 for CNRP lawmakers – since the National Assembly’s first meeting on September 23 last year.
“Those who use the fourth mandate number plates must be responsible for themselves,” Yeap said, adding that CNRP president Sam Rainsy was still using, and even attending anti-government protests in, a car bearing a licence plate granted to him by the state.
Rainsy did not register to stand in last year’s hotly contested general election, Yeap said, so was breaking the law by continuing to use a plate reserved for elected officials.
“The National Assembly would like to ask the authorities to look into the use of this plate,” he added.
But CNRP spokesman Yep Ponharith dismissed Cheam Yeap’s warning, saying the allegations made by the CPP lawmaker were a threat, with the intended outcome of pressuring the CNRP to join parliament amid ongoing political negotiations.
He added that he believes the continued use of the number plates is within the law.
“This is just political pressure because they want us to join the parliament. We will not join the parliament as long as there is no proper election,” he said.
“We still use [the old number plates]. That is not illegal.”
He added that, as no opposition lawmakers had claimed their places in the National Assembly, the 55 plates reserved for the CNRP had not been activated, and the old plates were still valid.
Phnom Penh municipal traffic police Chief Heng Chantheary declined to comment yesterday.
Kirt Chantharith, spokesman of the National Police, also declined to comment on the issue, saying he was not aware of the request for intervention issued by Yeap.
Political analyst Kem Ley said yesterday that, while it might seem like a minor political squabble, it was an issue of mutual respect.
“This is a very, very important issue; it’s about mutual respect. The CNRP right now should be thinking about how to negotiate the political impasse. The CPP and CNRP must think about the common interests, rather than blame each other,” he said.
“The CPP always blames [the] CNRP and CNRP activists always blame the CPP. I think it’s intimidation, but it’s the way things are done in Cambodia.… Everybody can use their force to threaten the order.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DANIEL PYE