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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Opposition pledges to go it alone

Opposition pledges to go it alone

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Both the SRP and the HRP have announced they will not seek appointments to Assembly committees, saying they are concerned their right to speak will be limited by the CPP

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN

Parliamentarians in the National Assembly on the first day of debate last week.

MEMBERS of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party this week announced they would not seek appointments to parliamentary committees for fear that their right to express dissent would be further hindered.

Mu Sochua, deputy secretary general of the SRP, said appointments to committees would provide no advantage to the opposition party, but would rather stifle an important voice of opposition.

"We will not participate in committees," she told the Post. "We will stay outside because if we don't, we will not be permitted to complain."

She blamed the ruling Cambodian People's Party for trying to silence opposition parties in Parliament and said her party would not abandon the HRP at a time when the government was trying to further marginalise them.

During last week's National Assembly debate on the 2009 budget, the HRP's three lawmakers were prevented from participating under a clause that prohibits parliamentarians who are not affiliated to a bloc of at least 10 voting members from speaking.

"Parliamentarians must have the right to express their views even if they don't have the required number of voting members. Otherwise, we lose all checks and balances," Mu Sochua said.

Silenced in parliament

HRP Secretary General Yem Ponharith said Monday his party's greatest concern is the ability to address Parliament.

"We have rejected the idea of joining committees. What is important for us is to be able to express our views. Now, we have no right to speak. We are required to have 10 party members if we want to speak," he said.

He added that the HRP would not seek alliances with other parties as a way to satisfy parliamentary regulations.

"If we join with [other parties], we will lose our identity as a party and provide political benefits to others, who will simply announce that we have endorsed their agenda by joining them," Yem Ponharith said.

He added that being outside parliamentary committees would hamper the party's ability to get information about legislative agendas.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap told the Post Monday that opposition groups have a right to choose not to join committees.

"We do not force them to enter committees. Whether they enter or not is up to them. We just want them to think about the absolute majority of the CPP. They have enough rights to speak," he said.

He added that Parliament simply wants the HRP's three parliamentarians to join with other parties that they support in order to satisfy Assembly rules.

"If they do not join with other parties in order to achieve the 10-member requirement, they will continue to face parliamentary regulations," Cheam Yeap said.   

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