Defence Minister Tea Banh, just a day after Prime Minister Hun Sen declared he would not have to testify before parliament, questioned the opposition’s intentions in summoning him at all yesterday, saying they never believed anything ministers told them.
On Wednesday, Hun Sen asked three of his ministers – Ith Samheng, Veng Sakhon and Bahn – to ignore any requests made by CNRP-led commissions to face questioning over activities in their respective ministries, saying the opposition party had forfeited their right to do so by skipping a vote to strip them of their minority party status.
Telling the ministers to ignore the summonses appeared to directly contradict the Constitution, which enshrines the right of parliamentary commissions to make such summonses.
Speaking yesterday during a speech at the National Defence University Bahn said that while the opposition felt a need to summon ministers, they never trusted anything presented to them.
“Until we say what they want [to hear], it will never be correct. Think about it. We respect the law, and they do not respect it,” he told a group of junior officers who had recently completed training.
Bahn added that the government had been given the “power to rule” by the Cambodian people, and wondered why the CNRP questioned their use of it.
“When we are given the power, we know how to use the power. If we cannot use it, then should we just throw it away?” he said.
The defence minister was being summoned by the CNRP after The Post reported that three Prime Minister’s Bodyguard Unit members convicted of savagely beating two lawmakers in 2015 had been promptly given promotions after their release from jail late last year.
Responding to criticism of the promotions, Bahn yesterday told his audience that the promotions were well within the laws governing the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
“The soldiers who fulfil their work and reach a specific time when they have to be promoted . . . anybody will be promoted and not only those bodyguards,” he said, repeating arguments made by a ministry spokesman recently.
Earlier in the day, Hun Sen elaborated on his slap-down of the opposition, saying two conditions had to be met before ministers would be made available for questioning that CNRP attends parliament regularly and that they accept the answers given by his ministers.
The National Assembly yesterday rubber-stamped the prime minister’s decision, releasing a statement confirming that lawmakers who did not attend parliament regularly would lose their power to summons ministers.
CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay yesterday said the party will now wait to see if the prime minister initiates any other procedural changes, but that they would continue to do their work in the meantime. “The CNRP continues to do its work as normal,” he said. “When we need to fulfil our obligation, we must go to fulfil it.”