Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Human Rights Party silenced during Assembly discussions

Human Rights Party silenced during Assembly discussions

Human Rights Party silenced during Assembly discussions

081209_02.jpg
081209_02.jpg

Debate rules prevent smaller party from participating in budget talks, but election monitors say regulations are discriminatory

Photo by:
Heng Chivoan

National Assembly lawmakers listen to Monday's opening debates on the the 2009 budget.

THREE opposition lawmakers were silenced during the National Assembly's first session Monday under a clause that prohibits parliamentarians who are not affiliated to a bloc of at least 10 voting members from speaking.

The lawmakers, from the newly-formed Human Rights Party that won only three seats in July's election, refused to team themselves with either the ruling Cambodian People's Party or the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, despite knowing they would lose their right to speak.

"We prefer to remain in our own team and stay independent of the parties. We were disappointed when the Assembly did not allow us to express our opinion in debating the draft law," lawmaker Ou Chamrith told the Post Monday, referring to the opening debate on the 2009 national budget.

"If we join, we are still under the leader of another party, so it is meaningless and we know that the [CPP] will not take our opinion into account either way," he said.

In countering the Human Rights Party's requests to be heard, CPP leader and National Assembly President Heng Samrin said, "Lawmakers, especially from the HRP, have to submit a request to the president of the National Assembly in order to include them into any team of lawmakers [to be allowed to speak]."

Mechanism of control

Mar Sophal, head of monitor for the Cambodian election watchdog Comfrel, told the Post that the requirements for speaking rights at the Assembly have been in place since 2005, but that their legitimacy was unclear.

"I think that the system is aimed at taking control of the voice of smaller parties at the National Assembly," he said.

He added that Comfrel has monitored the Assembly's debating rules since 1998 but has begun scrutinising the procedures more closely since the CPP's 2003 trouncing of its political opponents in national elections.

But CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the system obliged all lawmakers to join a group of 10 members in order to express their opinions, claiming it was adopted from parliaments in Germany and France.

"We divide into groups because we want to share an equal time of 20 minutes per group to express opinions and to debate the law," he said. "By doing so, each party will not be jealous and we can save time."

Cheam Yeap reiterated that   any party that does not want to join a group will lose its right of expression.

He added that lawmakers from the royalist Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party  - which won two seats each in July's poll - had joined with the CPP.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen to ‘step down’ if he loses Sam Rainsy bet over Kem Sokha

    Hun Sen has promised to step down as prime minister while opposition figure Sam Rainsy pledges to turn himself in as forfeits if the long-term political rivals lose a “bet” over the future of former opposition leader Kem Sokha, who is on bail awaiting trial

  • ‘Historic’ Khmer Rouge tribunal Case 002/2 verdict to be delivered

    The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) are to deliver the verdict on Friday, in the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, in a pronouncement hailed as a “historic event for Cambodia and the world”. The verdict from

  • Record set for world’s longest dragon boat

    Cambodia broke the world record for the longest dragon boat – a title previously held by China, Guinness World Records adjudicator Pravin Patel said on Monday. He verified the record on the east bank of the Mekong river, in Prey Veng province’s Peamro district. “With

  • Analyst: Government appointments ‘a waste of national budget’

    The government has appointed over 200 officials as undersecretaries of state, secretaries of state, assistants and advisers at various institutions since October 1. While senior officials said the appointments were aimed at ensuring higher efficiency at the national level, social analysts said the practice is merely power-sharing