Cambodian People’s Party lawmakers voted at parliament this morning to remove Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy leader Kem Sokha from his position as the National Assembly’s first vice president.
The legally-questionable ballot went ahead unopposed as CNRP lawmakers boycotted the session.
“According to the vote, I would like to announce that Kem Sokha has been removed as National Assembly vice president during assembly session on October 30,” National Assembly President Heng Samrin said after the vote at about 9am.
The lawmakers say they were acting on a “citizens proposal”, namely a petition handed to the parliament by pro-CPP protesters on Monday during a protest that ended with two CNRP lawmakers, Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea, being savagely beaten as they tried to leave the assembly.
Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the petition contained 300,000 thumbprints of people calling to strip Sokha of the position, which he received as part of the July 22 political deal that ended the opposition’s almost year-long parliamentary boycott.
Muth Chantha, Sokha’s chief of cabinet, said three CNRP members of the National Assembly permanent committee had attended an 8am meeting to challenge the last-minute inclusion of the vote against Sokha though were defeated, with the CPP holding the majority vote.
Chanta said the party was working on a response to the vote.
Many of the CNRP’s lawmakers are currently in Thailand supporting Chamroeun and Saphea, who are recovering from serious injuries after being dragged from separate cars and beaten in the street.
The opposition and civil society say the rally, led by a CPP-aligned youth group, and the subsequent violence were orchestrated by the ruling party in retaliation for anti-government protests which confronted Prime Minister Hun Sen in France.
On Wednesday, Hun Sen denounced the attacks and moved to distance the CPP from involvement.
The constitution, according to Article 87, only allows for the replacement of the National Assembly’s president or vice presidents in the case of their resignation or death, with no provision allowing lawmakers to oust a sitting parliamentary leader.
A parliamentary legal adviser, who declined to be named, said the vote entered a legal “grey area”.
“In the constitution, we only have article 87…it’s not so clear. Under the [National Assembly’s] internal regulations, even MPs can be completely removed from the National Assembly so then you would have to argue that the internal regulations are unconstitutional.
“The plenary is allowed with a simple majority to remove an MP completely. I would say it’s also the implied power of the National Assembly to just remove someone from their position within the NA, that’s at least what the CPP may say in its defence.”