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Sar Kheng to be Natl Assembly majority leader

Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng has been appointed majority leader in the National Assembly, meaning he and opposition leader Sam Rainsy will engage directly in dialogue over legislative issues.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and Cambodia National Rescue Party president Rainsy agreed in late November that internal assembly rules would be amended to formally recognise a US-style minority leader equal in rank to the premier – something Rainsy had pushed for.

At the time, it was said the new position would allow Rainsy to engage in “dialogue” with Hun Sen on serious matters.

But a statement released Tuesday by the Assembly and signed by president Heng Samrin said that Kheng would officially lead CPP lawmakers in the assembly, with Deputy Prime Ministers Keat Chhon and Men Sam An as deputies.

CNRP deputy leader and assembly first deputy president Kem Sokha will be deputy minority leader, with senior lawmaker Yim Sovann under him.

The new majority and minority leaders will each receive an office and between two and four additional secretaries to assist them, the statement said.

Rainsy said yesterday that despite Kheng’s appointment, Hun Sen would remain his dialogue partner on national issues. He said that he and Kheng would meet over problems related to lawmaking or internal assembly regulations.

“For political or national issues, [I] will meet with the prime minister,” he said.

Rainsy added that there was no meeting currently scheduled between he and Hun Sen, who called on Monday for Rainsy to negotiate with him over seven opposition lawmakers that he said should be convicted on outstanding charges despite their parliamentary immunity.

It is expected, however, that a meeting between the majority and minority representatives will soon be called by Samrin.

“Both groups must cooperate since they have now been created,” Rainsy said.

Senior ruling party lawmaker Chheang Vun said Kheng had been appointed instead of Hun Sen because the prime minister was too busy and often abroad.

But “in the parliament, Samdech can talk with Sam Rainsy at any time,” Vun said.

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