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MPs ‘hastily’ approved laws, new report says

Sam Rainsy, Tiulong Saumura and Hun Sen talk at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh earlier this year after the new Election Law was passed during a vote.
Sam Rainsy, Tiulong Saumura and Hun Sen talk at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh earlier this year after the new Election Law was passed during a vote. PHOTO SUPPLIED

MPs ‘hastily’ approved laws, new report says

Lawmakers have hastily approved key legislation with little or no meaningful debate, according to a mid-year report on the National Assembly’s performance, which criticised opposition president Sam Rainsy for stifling discussion prior to two important votes.

Released yesterday, the assessment by government watchdog Comfrel recorded the work of parliamentarians between January and June.

It noted lawmakers had increased their trips to their constituencies and parliamentary committees had boosted their activities.

But, when it came to legislating, representatives from both parties were ineffectively discussing and debating laws before they were “rushed” through the approval process, the report found.

“There is a lack of preparation, discussion and consultation before plenary session debates and individual lawmakers don’t express their own opinions and are afraid of saying anything different to the party,” Comfrel executive director Koul Panha said.

During the period covered by the report, parliament held 10 ordinary plenary sessions and one extraordinary session. Some 27 lawmakers spoke for a total of nine hours, and 15 items were approved.

Sessions to adopt the Election Law and National Election Committee legislation were cited as “poor lessons”.

Before those votes, Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy, as the only lawmaker to speak, ruled further debate unnecessary as the bills were developed by bipartisan working groups.

Comfrel monitor Sin Tithseiha said that this was disappointing.

“The idea of the NA session is that it’s open for members of parliament to discuss provisions that are not clear or the concerns of stakeholders regarding the draft law,” he said.

The CNRP’s failure to attend the vote on the controversial NGO Law, which they boycotted, and their abstention on the 2013 expenditure report was also noted.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann defended the boycott and said further debate on the election legislation was not necessary, but he agreed that in most cases more time was needed for meaningful debate to take place.

“This is difficult because the CPP control the National Assembly,” he said.

CPP spokesman Chhim Phal Virun, however, dismissed the findings.

“I think it was a report by a baby and useless for the nation because Comfrel has no ability to monitor the National Assembly,” he said.

Also in the period, 39 CPP lawmakers made 85 visits to their constituencies, while 32 CNRP parliamentarians made 527 visits.

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