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House is stalled as Chakrapong row rumbles on

House is stalled as Chakrapong row rumbles on

T HE National Assembly remained paralyzed for the third week in succession

because parties could not agree on the inclusion of CPP strongmen Prince Norodom

Chakrapong and Sin Song as new Assembly members.

As the Post went to

press, there is no indication of when it will meet next.

The Assembly has

not been able to consider desperately-needed laws on investment, immigration or

the Supreme Council of Magistracy or discuss any other issue because the

inclusion of new members is the first item on its agenda. It has also stalled

the Royal Government's attempt to bring in legislation controlling the press.

The controversy over the CPP pair has split the government, with First

Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh reportedly strongly against the inclusion of

them. The two men led a short-lived separatist revolt in five eastern provinces

after last year's elections and Sin Song has also been linked to CPP death

squads which killed dozens of political opponents in the run up to the

polls.

Discussions are now going on between Prince Ranariddh and the two

top men in the CPP, Second Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen and National Assembly

Chairman Chea Sim. Both Hun Sen and Chea Sim support Prince Chakrapong and Sin

Song's entry into parliament.

A meeting of the Permanent Committee of the

National Assembly, headed by Chea Sim was held on April 29 to decide whether the

re-inclusion of the two CPP members is legal.

But Human Rights

Commission Chairman Kem Sokha, a member of the committee, says that though five

lawyers were present at the stormy session, the committee broke up without an

agreement. A further meeting was planned for May 5.

The controversy has

arisen because 19 members of parliament -13 from the Funcinpec and six from the

CPP - have been nominated to governor's, ambassador's or other posts and their

places have become vacant.

The parties can now nominate new candidates

from the list of candidates they had submitted before last year's election.

According to the Untac electoral law, parties first submitted lists of

candidates for each province, which were formally approved by Untac.

After the elections, the number of seats a party was entitled to in a

province was calculated according to the number of votes it had won there, using

a complex mathematical formula set out in the Untac electoral law.

Each

party then filled up its quota of seats for every province by naming members

from its party list.

Chakrapong and Sin Song were on the CPP list from

Kompong Cham and Prey Veng respectively and were named to the assembly by the

CPP.

But they did not take their seats because they were involved in the

secession attempt days after the election last year. Other members were

nominated to their places.

Funcinpec and BLDP oppose their belated entry

to parliament, saying members who failed to take their places have forfeited

their claim to assembly seats and cannot be re-nominated.

"This is

illegal under the Untac election law," says Funcinpec MP Monh Saphan.

Article 78 of the law states: "If any member resigns, dies or is unable

to take his or her place .... the next person on the list would be considered

duly elected." Funcinpec and BLDP MPs say this rules out any re-nomination.

The CPP points out that the Untac election rules were meant to govern

the election and form the Constituent Assembly, which drafted the new

constitution. Since the constitution is now in force, the Untac law is invalid,

the Chakrapong, Sin Song advocates argue.

It is also unclear whether

Chakrapong and Sin Song formally resigned their places, because their names have

not been struck off the list.

Funcinpec and BLDP MPs say they did write

letters forgoing their seats but cannot confirm it or find copies of the letter.

Neutral observers say that technically, Untac election laws are not

valid now, but it is necessary to refer to them simply because there is no other

electoral law. Says one foreign law expert:"Since members have been elected on

the basis of this law, they should consult it when faced with a

problem."

At the Assembly, Funcinpec and BLDP propose to consider each

replacement candidate on a case by case basis. This in effect means that while

the other four CPP candidates could be approved, Chakrapong and Sin Song could

be singled out for rejection.

The CPP insists that it will submit a list

of candidates for all six seats and the list should be either completely

accepted or rejected.

It will be difficult for Funcinpec and BLDP to

reject the entire list because of two candidates.

Observers feel that if

the CPP has its way, it will set a very bad precedent and parties could use such

backdoor entries to their advantage.

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