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Praise for Lao Mong Hay

Dear Editor,

Being myself one of the three, now four, expelled

Senators, I salute Dr Lao Mong Hay for his brilliant article: "The Senate: Its

irrelevancy and relevancy," (PPP Jan 4, 2002).

This article questions the

integrity of Cambodia's Senate in expelling its three members while our immunity

has not been lifted by our peers as required by the


Strangely enough, no similar outcry has been this time

expressed by the community of NGOs and the United Nations, especially the rights

groups in regard to the outright affront against the fundamental principles of

free speech and parliamentary protection. The article lists practically all the

weak points of the present Senate.

Lao Mong Hay's suggestions to rethink

the Senate in terms of its role, its relationship with the government and with

the National Assembly-and even of its mode of elections by age groups-are worth

exploring for the next Senate if this institution is to exist and regain some

degree of respectability and independence after it has lost them in the current


Lao Mong Hay's contention, for instance, that "the National

Assembly's creature, ie the government, has become a Frankenstein, threatening

the creator instead," should have encouraged the Senate to explore a series of

roles inherent in bicameralism and use these roles to moderate excesses between

the government and other institutions such as the National Assembly and the


The lack of separation of powers, alluded to in Lao Mong Hay's

article, calls for the Senate to play a role, the role of the Upper House as a


I found this lack of separation of powers to be one of the main

obstacles to Cambodia's democratic reforms. It was in attempting to point out on

the floor of the Senate that the government-sponsored bill spelled out a clearer

separation of powers, that I was doomed to fall on the very same day.


whether the question of separation of powers or any other issue, such as our

objection to the extension of detention period from 48 to 72 hours, has actually

caused my demise, only two things flashed in my mind when I sat back after my

short intervention: the protection of potential victims and a clearer separation

of powers, especially an independent court when dealing with criminal


I thought I did my duties as a Senator, I felt comfortable in my

seat and I was happy. A few hours after my comments, the Party's bosses met in

secret and decided that I must leave the Cambodian People's Party and the


I believe now that I was expelled from the CPP, then from the

Senate because I got up that day and spoke out in defense of the basic

principles of democracy and human rights.

Besides, I had been persuaded

all along that the CPP-led government had seriously embarked on political

reforms aimed at installing a liberal democracy in Cambodia. I welcomed this

policy and, some ten years ago, left my family in the US and joined the CPP in

order to make my contribution to this new change. I never realized that the

discipline of the CPP and the Cambodian government's political line, of which I

was accused of breaching, still deviated so much from these democratic

principles that the CPP leadership had to expel me without proper warning and in

spite of my parliamentary immunity.

- Chhang Song, Senator, expelled



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