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Sokha still in crosshairs

National Assembly First Vice President Kem Sokha.
National Assembly First Vice President Kem Sokha. Heng Chivoan

Sokha still in crosshairs

The National Assembly is preparing to discuss the “people’s proposal” to oust Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy leader Kem Sokha from his position as the assembly’s vice president, a ruling party lawmaker said yesterday.

Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker and parliamentary spokesman Chheang Vun said that Monday’s pro-CPP protest against Sokha, which ended in two CNRP lawmakers being severely beaten, was just the latest of “many” requests to oust the CNRP leader from the position, which the assembly was obliged to consider.

“The members of parliament can vote for [Kem Sokha] to hold any position, the members of parliament can also vote to take that position back,” Chheang Vun said, declining to specify when the issue might be debated.

“[We] cannot say we won’t discuss it. [We] must discuss [the issue] in a democratic regime because Article 1 and Article 35 of the constitution state that if there is a citizen’s proposal, the institutions of state must take care to resolve it.”

Responding yesterday, CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said removing Sokha from his position would violate both the law and the political deal struck between the parties last year to end the opposition’s year-long parliamentary boycott after the disputed 2013 elections.

Sokha’s parliamentary position was a condition of the July 22 deal, which was supposed to usher in the so-called “culture of dialogue” to defuse tensions in Cambodia’s combative politics.

“If [Sokha’s removal] really takes place, it is an abuse of the political agreement of July 22, 2014,” he said.

“The position of the National Assembly leader is a political position according to the people’s will.”

The opposition claim the CPP organised Monday’s protest against Sokha as a reprisal for anti-government rallies that greeted Prime Minister Hun Sen in France.

But CPP spokesman Sous Yara yesterday claimed Sokha had “violated” his position as parliamentary vice president by using “threatening words” to criticise the CPP, citing Sokha’s recent claim that Hun Sen recognised the ruling party could lose the 2018 election as “very offensive”.

Yara said the party was upset the CNRP continued to level “unjustified” public attacks, rather than engage in dialogue to resolve issues.

Political commentator Ok Serei Sopheak said it was this disagreement as to the terms of the “culture of dialogue” that was at the core of the current crisis.

“In the eyes of the CPP, it was a betrayal to the spirit of the July 22 agreement . . . They gave the position to Kem Sokha, he accepted the salary . . . They really believed that by having done all this, including sharing power at the National Assembly and the Senate, they could expect some kind of understanding from CNRP.

“[But] the CNRP continue to . . . increase their attacks against the leadership of the CPP and against the government.”

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