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PM vows to keep pledges as CNRP slams ‘fake’ assembly

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Prime Minister Hun Sen leaves the National Assembly after its first session on Thursday. Pha Lina

PM vows to keep pledges as CNRP slams ‘fake’ assembly

‘I sincerely pledge . . . that I am determined to lead the national executive to ensure the success of all the programmes the Cambodian People’s Party [CPP] promised the people before the election,” Prime Minister Hun Sen said at Wednesday’s National Assembly swearing-in ceremony, as he assured the Kingdom’s voters that all campaign promises would be kept.

The prime minister’s vow came at the first session of the new parliament, which for the first time in Cambodia’s modern history is comprised of one party, as the leadership of the court-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) issued a statement this week claiming they refused to recognise the chamber, which they said was born of a “fake” election.

“The one-party National Assembly does not reflect the true will of Cambodia. This National Assembly cannot represent Cambodians because the will of more than half the Cambodian population was banned,” the statement read.

Hun Sen, expanding on his election campaign platform, said the new government had a four-point plan – protecting peace, pushing economic development, raising living standards and strengthening social programmes such as healthcare and social security.

After a swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday presided by King Norodom Sihamoni, all 125 seats in parliament at Thursday’s first session were taken by CPP officials as the legislative body’s president and vice-president were named after a series of unanimous votes.

Heng Samrin was chosen as the president of the sixth Legislative National Assembly, while Nguon Nhel became its first vice-president and Khuon Sodary the second vice-president.

The chairman and vice-chairman of all 10 parliamentary expert commissions were appointed as well.

Among them, Hun Sen’s youngest son, Hun Many, a lawmaker for Kampong Speu province, was appointed the chairman of the seventh commission, which covers education, youth, sport, cults, religious affairs, culture and tourism. Em Bunna was appointed the deputy chairwoman.

On Thursday afternoon, all senior government officials who were appointed to the National Assembly earlier that day took their oaths in front of the King at the Royal Palace.

Speaking in front of the National Assembly later on, Prime Minister Hun Sen reiterated that the July 29 elections were free, fair, just and transparent, with more than 83 per cent of registered voters participating. He noted that this was the highest participation rate in the Kingdom’s history.

“The high participation rate clearly demonstrates the willingness of many Cambodians to exercise their rights as citizens,” he said.

Seemingly addressing leaders from the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen claimed some people with ill intentions were lobbying to have international leaders condemn the poll.

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Journalists watch the inaugural meeting of the National Assembly on Thursday in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

“Some ill-intentioned group is trying to persuade Cambodians to withdraw from the path of democracy and rule of law. They incite, encourage and persuade Cambodians to walk according to their ambitions, which is poisonous and dangerous for Cambodia.

“They want to overthrow the legitimate government through a colour revolution that pushes Cambodia to fall once again into the period of social chaos and tragedies,” he said.

Samrin, the new president of the National Assembly, used his speech after his appointment to thank the Cambodian people.

“Today, I am delighted for the honour to be chosen as new president of ... the National Assembly one more time. On behalf of Nguon Nhel, first vice-president, and Khuon Sodary, second vice-president of the National Assembly, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all the parliamentary members.

“I would like to express my admiration and gratitude to all compatriots throughout the country who have fulfilled the most valuable duties as citizens to participate in decision-making and expressed their will and voted for their political parties in an honorable, non-violent, free, fair, just, and transparent election in accordance with the principles of democracy,” he said.

The positions appointed on Thursday are set to last for the next five years.

The new government is composed of 10 deputy prime ministers, 17 senior ministers and 29 ministers to preside over the various ministries.

Notably, there were no changes made to ministry heads over the previous mandate. However, three deputy prime ministers were added, including Prak Sokhonn, the minister of foreign affairs, Aun Porn Moniroth, the minister of economy and finance and Chea Sophara, the minister of land management.

The former opposition CNRP, meanwhile, said it considered the boycott of foreign ambassadors from some democratic countries at the opening of the National Assembly on Wednesday as “a clear demonstration that all those countries did not recognise the legitimacy of the single-party National Assembly and government created from faked elections”.

“Hun Sen and CPP’s single-party government created on September 5 would lead Cambodia into various sanctions from international communities and its continuation will only cause pain to Cambodian people,” said the CNRP statement.

Nine Western envoys to the Kingdom failed to appear at Wednesday’s National Assembly ceremony. While many were nondescript in their reasons, the Australian embassy said its absence was due to the “flawed election process”.

In contrast, 21 other diplomats and ambassadors participated in the opening of the first session of the National Assembly. They included eceonomic and nuclear powers Japan, China, Russia, India, and several neighbouring Asean nations.

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