The Senate amended its internal rules yesterday to punish senators who miss sessions by docking their salaries, while also voting down a measure to appoint the wife of Hong Sok Hour to fill his former seat on the body’s anti-corruption committee.
According to a statement from the Senate, the rule change is meant “to increase faith and confidence of the public in the senators and the Senate through strengthening the respect of discipline”.
Opposition senators, however, said yesterday that the amendments would impose unnecessary limits on the work of the body’s members. But Senate spokesman Mam Bun Neang said the measure was just to “have discipline”.
A similar amendment passed in the National Assembly last October to dock absent lawmakers’ salaries was criticised by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party because it was seen as punishing them for past boycotts of assembly sessions.
“It’s as if democracy is going backwards. We don’t have the right to express ourselves anymore,” said opposition Senator Kun Lum Ang, who took up her seat to replace her husband, jailed former Senator Hong Sok Hour, who is serving a seven-year sentence for social media posts concerning a border treaty with Vietnam.
Lum Ang was nominated by the party to take her husband’s place on the anti-corruption council within the Senate, but the body voted against her. Instead, the seat will remain vacant, and Cambodian People’s Party Senator Bun Neang will likely remain in charge after replacing Sok Hour.
Lum Ang speculated that the vote may have been related to the opposition’s objection to the amendments, but Bun Neang countered that it was likely her husband’s conviction that swayed the Senate. “[Lum Ang’s] husband committed an offence and was sentenced to prison,” he said.
Yoeung Sotheara, a legal officer at Comfrel, said the vote could be tied to efforts to quash the opposition. “Kun Lum Ang is the wife of the convicted Hong Sok Hour . . . Maybe they’re not happy with her and her party,” he said.
He also raised concerns about an amendment approved yesterday allowing for senators to oversee multiple committees.
“The Senate has many members, so one person should only be responsible for one commission,” he said.