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Opposition leader Sam Rainsy outside the National Assembly
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy outside the National Assembly Vireak Mai

CNRP takes first legislative steps

The first National Assembly session attended by Cambodia National Rescue Party parliamentarians was marked by calls for a new culture of cooperation – and some pointed comments from the prime minister.

While yesterday’s short session included the creation of a new Anti-Corruption Commission, it featured more rhetoric than legislation as both sides used the end of the 10-month boycott to score political points.

In a speech, CNRP president Sam Rainsy declared the “political crisis” over and appealed to both parties to work together in a spirit of trust. “The agreement will open a new chapter in the history of Cambodia,” he said.

Rainsy then called for an end to the culture of revenge and enmity.

“It’s a culture of ‘when the water rises, fish eat the ants, and when water subsides, the ants eat the fish’. But we are not ants and not fish. We are all humans. We are the same Khmer. We must work together to build our nation.”

After welcoming the CNRP’s 55 newly sworn in parliamentarians to the assembly, Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed dismay that they had taken so long, noting that the final agreement was similar to one proposed in September last year.

“We are sorry. Until [the CNRP] awakened, it brought sadness to the country,” Hun Sen said.

Responding to Rainsy’s comments, he said that when the CPP was in power, all parties could live with them.

Outside parliament, Hun Sen went on to ask the CNRP to stop calling the CPP puppets of the Vietnamese.

“I’m waiting to see whether this culture [of cooperation] will happen, and whether the CNRP is determined to work together with CPP. So I am waiting to see who opens attack first.”

The hour-long session also saw the parliament begin ticking items off the list which had been agreed to in the July 22 deal.

First up was the creation of the Anti-Corruption Commission. The creation of the new CNRP-controlled commission, approved by a unanimous vote, means each party will control five of 10 commissions.

CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said in a telephone interview the next step would be to appoint the new vice president of the National Assembly, which is expected to be opposition deputy leader Kem Sokha.

The heads of each of the commissions could be appointed as early as next week, he added.

He said agreed-to reforms of the National Election Commission, the key concession that brought the CNRP back to the assembly, would have to wait until the new Permanent Committee was in place.

Commenting on yesterday’s proceedings, Chhay said there was a different atmosphere in the assembly.

“I was very impressed by the speeches delivered by both leaders, and I hope the commitment to reform is real not just words,” he said.

“Real reform can only take place when both parties can work together. And I hope the ruling party will see that reform will benefit everyone.”

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