THE controversial and long-awaited draft law to establish Cambodia's new Senate will
be debated at an extraordinary National Assembly session at the end of this month,
an Assembly official has confirmed.
Legislation commission chair Monh Saphan said that his commission has completed discussing
the draft and is now sending it to the Assembly for approval.
He said the plan is to establish 61 senatorial positions, half of the number of MPs.
The first term of the Senate will last for five years, while the second term will
last for six years.
"For this first term, we have decided that senators are to be chosen by the
three parties who have seats in the Assembly, and for the next term there will be
a universal election," he said.
The new blueprint may put to rest lobbying for posts from members of defeated political
parties or NGOs, but runs counter to King Sihanouk's ideas, who cautioned in a Jan
9 interview against creating "a useless Constitution", arguing that most
Senate members should be elected from different professions and NGOs which defend
In a Jan 19 interview with palace staff, the King recommended that he, the government
and the Assembly nominate two Senators each; "the other Senators ought to be
elected from different professional bodies".
He also cautioned: "[I]t is better not to hurry to arrive at a definitive solution,
because it is necessary to avoid the ëdelivery' of a useless institution to our country."
The opposition Sam Rainsy Party came out in support of the King's position in a Jan
Although the party had previously suggested a public referendum on the issue, it
now endorses the idea of "universal indirect suffrage" to choose the senators.
Establishing the Senate, an entirely new government body, was a crucial agreement
in CPP's discussions with Funcinpec leading to the formation of the coalition government
in November 1998.
The theoretical chamber will provide a prestigious post - chairman - for influential
CPP president Chea Sim, whose former job, National Assembly chairman, has been taken
by Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
Ranariddh has said that the sooner the legislation is approved, the better.
"We have also signed on the agreement ... so the Funcinpec does not object anymore,"
he said Jan 13, after a Faculty of Medicine conference.
However, plenty of others still are objecting strongly to the establishment and formation
of the Senate, which requires extensive Constitutional change and at least 61 new
salaries to pay.
A group of NGOs, in a Dec 11 statement, suggested "developing the role of the
Constitutional Council to fulfil some of the functions of the proposed Senate,"
including designating the head of the Council - presumably a job for Chea Sim - as
acting head of state in the King's absence.
Sam Sun Doeun, the sole SRP member on the legislative commission, said he expressed
strong objections to the draft but was overruled by the majority.
"Like other Rainsy MPs, I myself still retain my stance against creating this
body," he said. "Our country is very poor, everything that happens, contamination,
deforestation, teacher's strike - these are the problems we should solve instead
of creating a Senate."