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CNRP to boycott questioning of Justice Minister

National Assembly President Heng Samrin speaks during a meeting yesterday in Phnom Penh where the decision was made to summon Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana.
National Assembly President Heng Samrin speaks during a meeting yesterday in Phnom Penh where the decision was made to summon Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana. Heng Chivoan

CNRP to boycott questioning of Justice Minister

The National Assembly will hold a session on June 9 summoning Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana to answer questions relating to the recent arrests of opposition lawmakers and human rights activists, though the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party yesterday said it will abstain from the hearing.

Despite having made the request on May 6 to question Vathana about the increasing politicisation of the judiciary, CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said the party boycotted yesterday’s meeting and will abstain from the parliamentary session because its request to postpone Vathana’s questioning was not considered.

“We are the proposers, so we have the right to postpone,” said Chhay. “If the permanent committee still calls the minister, whose questions will he come to answer?”

He added that the delay was requested because the party was currently dealing with the escalating political crisis surrounding CNRP leader Kem Sokha’s alleged sex scandal and attempting to restore stability in the country.

Following the committee meeting, Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Chheang Vun said the committee had made the decision based on the CNRP’s request and had already forwarded the questions to the minister.

“When the [CNRP] sends questions it is already on the record, so he [Vathana] must come to answer,” Vun said.

Vun paid little heed to the CNRP’s call for a boycott, saying that there was no rule for requesting a postponement and calling the request an attempt to defend Sokha and distract from his ongoing scandal.

Chhay rejected Vun’s suggestion that the postponement was a diversionary tactic, adding that last month’s request listed out questions related to the government’s conduct during the scandal and its use of law enforcement in the case, as well as Vathana’s alleged links to the Panama Papers leaks, in which he is named as one of five shareholders in an offshore holding company.

“He [Vun] has also got the letter [from the CNRP] and the letter does not speak about Mr Kem Sokha,” Chhay said.

With Sokha scheduled to appear before Phnom Penh Municipal Court on June 14 for ignoring prior summonses, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann on Sunday said the party would prepare a second petition on June 13 followed by a march to submit it to King Norodom Sihamoni on the same day.

However, a party release yesterday said that the petition would be prepared on June 13 and a mass gathering of supporters would be organised at party headquarters on June 14. Sovann could not be reached yesterday to clarify whether the march would go ahead as stated on June 13.

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