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Government to form on Sept 6, says PM

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Members of parliament vote on amendments to election laws at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh in 2017. AFP

Government to form on Sept 6, says PM

After paying a courtesy call on the King and visiting the chairman of the Constitutional Council, caretaker prime minister Hun Sen on Wednesday rescheduled the date on which a new National Assembly will be formed.

The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) president also directed his ire on political analysts and singled out the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) for its lacklustre performance in the July 29 national elections.

Earlier this month, Hun Sen said that parliament would be formed in the third week of September. However, he later said he wanted the new government to be formed before he speaks at the UN General Assembly in New York City next month.

During a speech to more than 18,400 garment workers on Wednesday in Kampong Speu province, the CPP leader said the National Assembly would convene on September 5-6 in a ceremony presided over by the King.

He said the date was changed after a meeting with King Norodom Sihamoni and consultation with Im Chhun Lim, chairman of the Constitutional Council.

“The date has changed. We will have the [inauguration] of the National Assembly on Wednesday morning, September 5. The National Assembly will organise the session presided over by the King, and on Wednesday evening members of the National Assembly will be sworn in before taking office.

“On Thursday morning, we will create head positions for the National Assembly and form the new government. On the evening of September 6, newly elected members of the government will take the official oath before assuming their positions,” Hun Sen said.

He said the first Council of Ministers meeting would be held on September 7. Creating a new government, he said, could be done quickly and didn’t contravene the Constitution.

He dismissed analysts who had criticised his previous announcement as “foolish scholars”.

“There is nothing illegal because nothing in the Constitution contravenes it,” he said.

At the same time, Hun Sen also called out a political party. Though he didn’t specifically mention the party’s name, it was clear he was referring to the GDP – a party that focuses on the agriculture sector and whose members come from civil society organisations.

“Some said that only they could do it . . . Some said they would encourage organic agriculture. I would like to say the development of organic agriculture is not exclusive to your party policies. It is part of the CPP’s policies,” Hun Sen stressed.

“You need to remember not to be too extremist . . . Can even a single NGO work in Cambodia without the government’s permission?” Hun Sen asked.

He seemed to be mocking Yang Saing Koma, a Takeo province candidate, and Yeng Virak, who had run in Kampong Speu province. Both had expressed ambitions to win seats from the CPP.

“During the election campaign, who were the strong men? Cambodian people made good decisions, and I, personally, heard them say that Takeo province must force the CPP out . . . Kampong Speu province too.

“They wanted to push the CPP out of Kampong Speu. You clearly don’t know the CPP. People did not know you. People did not trust you. They did not vote for you,” he said.

Responding to Hun Sen’s comments, Saing Koma welcomed any organic farming policies from the CPP, though he said he saw nothing of the sort in the past.

“Secondly, we live in a liberal multi-party democracy, so we have many NGOs and society civil organisations. It is normal for them to participate and voice their opinions in politics. It is this that civil society organisations contribute to the nation,” he said.

Saing Koma claimed that the GDP had no intention of destroying any party.

“We believe the competition was unfair. It was not just. [Hun Sen] used the civil service system and structures in villages and communes.

“In contrast, we competed with only political policies and peoples’ hearts. What we got were real votes. They were not from buying, threatening, or intimidation,” he claimed.

Political analyst Hang Vitou said it would not matter whether the National Assembly was in session sooner or later. However, he questioned a single-party assembly’s efficiency in serving people.

“I understand that the date of the National Assembly’s session is not important . . . What needs asking is how can a National Assembly created by a single-party serve the people? What important things will be discussed at the meetings?” he asked.

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