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Long wait over for rookie MPs

Long Botta sits in his garden with his wife last year
Long Botta sits in his garden with his wife last year. The Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker-elect will take a seat in the National Assembly for the first time. Kara Fox

Long wait over for rookie MPs

As the nation yesterday celebrated the end of a nearly year-long political deadlock, Rotana Pin, a first-time lawmaker elected under the Cambodia National Rescue Party umbrella, was quietly relishing his party’s chance to finally push back against months of unchecked power.

“Now it’s going to become a legal parliament, and I think we have a new weapon to work against the [Cambodian People’s Party] and limit them from what they want to do,” said Pin, who came back to Cambodia to win a seat in parliament last July after spending nearly three decades in the US.

“We cannot control them, but we can hold them back,” he said.

The long-awaited agreement between the two parties means about 20 first-time members will take their seats alongside Pin, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said.

In addition to ending a year of at times excruciating political tension, Long Botta has personal reasons to want to get in the assembly.

Botta was appointed under the Norodom Sihanouk and Lon Nol regimes of the 1960s and 1970s, respectively. He fled Phnom Penh just five days before it fell to the Khmer Rouge.

“This couldn’t keep [up] longer,” Botta said, referring to the boycott but noting why the party felt it was necessary. “[I’m] impatient of course, but I want to be sure I have free hands to work.”

Whether or not the party got what it needed in the deal was an open question for some lawmakers.

For Pin, the promised redistribution of seats in the National Election Committee made the holdout well worth it.

“I think we’ll make a lot of gains [if] we change the NEC,” Pin said. “So now . . . we want to prepare ourselves for the next election.”

But while stopping short of criticising his party as being too quick to accept its rival’s terms, freshman Prey Veng lawmaker Lagh Lachlittay said he worried the deal may have been made too quickly.

“[Joining Parliament happened] too fast,” Lachlittay said. “But we cannot say yet, because there are so many details to figure out.”

Despite his concerns, Lachlittay said that he looked forward to more immediate change.

“We will liberate Freedom Park – that’s the first thing,” he said, referring to a public gathering site known more for violence and barricades since January.

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