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Censured lawmaker admits poor word choice

Cambodia National Rescue Party parliamentarian Um Sam An (right) attends a press conference at the Council of Ministers earlier this month.
Cambodia National Rescue Party parliamentarian Um Sam An (right) attends a press conference at the Council of Ministers earlier this month. Heng Chivoan

Censured lawmaker admits poor word choice

In the wake of his 15-session suspension from parliament for “insulting” National Assembly President Heng Samrin, opposition lawmaker Um Sam An has defended criticism he posted on social media while expressing regret over his choice of words.

Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) representative Sam An received the punishment – which also included having his parliamentary salary halved for two months – in an order signed by Samrin on Thursday, following a July 14 post by Sam An on Facebook criticising Samrin.

In the post, Sam An claimed Samrin had failed to forward a July 6 letter signed by several opposition members to Prime Minister Hun Sen urging the border demarcation process with Vietnam to be halted.

The post also saw him indirectly call Samrin a “yuon”– a term for Vietnamese people widely considered derogatory and sometimes thrown at members of the government by critics of apparent inaction on border issues.

Sam An’s punishment was doled out by the National Assembly’s Standing Committee, which ruled he had violated Article 87 of the constitution, Article 5 of the Civil Servant Status Law and articles 77 and 78 of the internal regulations of the assembly.

Speaking yesterday, Sam An denied reports in local press that he had apologised to Samrin, instead saying he was right to criticise Samrin over the failure to pass on the letter, but that his wording was ill-conceived.

“I have used unsuitable words against him, but I am not wrong,” he said.

“If we continue fighting, we will really lose out [on the border issue].”

While Sam An has called for a compromise to be reached over his remarks, ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker and National Assembly spokesman Cheang Vun stood by the punishment.

“The Standing Committee thinks he is wrong,” he said yesterday.

“I would like to tell him that he needs to use words a bit more carefully.”

The punishment was issued less than a week after Sam An and three other CNRP lawmakers staged a rally of some 2,000 supporters near the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province, leading more than 100 people to disputed Border Post 203.

The CNRP and local communities claim the border post is set hundreds of metres into Cambodian territory, with Vietnam apparently attempting to maintain the frontier where it is currently marked with a road currently under construction.

The CNRP has repeatedly called for all border demarcation to be halted until a proper review of the border can be carried out.

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