National Assembly members began a three month recess on February 25, but the continuing
lack of a quorum meant several draft laws were not passed. The most prominent piece
of unfinished business was the draft law on domestic violence.
Other items were the draft law to settle the 2001 Budget, and amendments to the functioning
of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, the judicial oversight body.
The NA President, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, told reporters on February 25 that many
MPs were unhappy with the provisions of the domestic violence law.
"Many parliamentarians expressed the view that the domestic violence law would
cause a revolution [in Khmer] society if it is passed," he said.
That was certainly the opinion of the CPP's Chhour Leang Hout, who added that the
draft did not meet legal standards, was written in a disordered way, and its contents
contradicted its title.
Minister of Women's Affairs Mu Sochua, who has long pushed for the law, said its
aim was simply to protect families from a widespread and highly damaging social problem.
"The ministry is not trying to change Khmer culture," Sochua said. "It
has the right to protect family values."
Funcinpec legislator Phan Chantha blamed MPs from both his party and the opposition
Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) for the lack of a quorum. The house needs 86 of its 122 members
present to discuss business.
He said many MPs had boycotted parliament following a public dispute between Prime
Minister Hun Sen and royalist MP Princess Norodom Vacheara. Hun Sen had threatened
to sue Vacheara, which he could not do unless the NA stripped her of parliamentary
immunity. Royalist and SRP legislators decided to boycott the sessions to head off
any such vote.
Chantha said that since the January 29 riots, individual MPs were worried about growing
political tensions within the CPP/Funcinpec coalition government.
Things had grown more tense since Vacheara, who heads the Foreign Affairs Commission,
sent a letter to Hun Sen asking him or his representative to appear before the Assembly
to explain the government's response to the riots.
The Prime Minister reportedly referred to her in a disparaging way at a subsequent
meeting of the Council of Ministers (CoM). In response Vacheara threatened to sue
Hun Sen, who in turn on February 17 lodged a lawsuit against her for slander.
She left for medical treatment in France on February 20.
Chantha said another cause of tension was the wrangle over the country's borders,
which are not precisely defined but which have been the subject of recent discussions
between the government and the country's neighbors.
And a political observer, who requested anonymity, said the killing of Funcinpec
official Om Radsady could signal an escalation in the growing disputes between royalist
officials and their CPP counterparts. The murder, he said, reminded him of a Khmer
proverb: "Hitting the grass to scare the snakes."
Monh Saphan, head of the NA's Legislation Commission, said MPs would return on May
25. The Assembly's mandate is set to end on September 24 when the new members will
be appointed following the general election in July. They are scheduled to meet for
the first session of the new parliament around late October, although Saphan warned
that political tensions could delay that.