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Stay in the field, Sokha says

Sam Rainsy, opposition leader and member of parliament for Kampong Cham, meets with residents in the province last year while campaigning before national elections
Sam Rainsy, opposition leader and member of parliament for Kampong Cham, meets with residents in the province last year while campaigning before national elections. Heng Chivoan

Stay in the field, Sokha says

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy president Kem Sokha has proposed that new rules be introduced in parliament that would see politicians obliged to spend some time each month working in their constituencies.

If Sokha’s proposed rules were introduced, it would be the first time sitting politicians have been required to dedicate time to working where they were elected.

Speaking to hundreds of supporters in Battambang province yesterday, Sokha, who was recently installed as deputy president of the National Assembly, encouraged lawmakers to spend more time speaking to voters.

“I would like to ask lawmakers from both parties to have a program each month – at least once a month – where they sit down and listen to people [in their constituencies],” Sokha said. “It should be announced through the media from day to day. All lawmakers … will wait for people in their offices so if they have problems they can come and file complaints.”

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee For Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel), said he had first proposed the same idea back in 2003, but his suggestions had been ignored.

He blamed the lack of constituency-level case work done by sitting MPs on underfunded provincial facilities, many of which don’t have basic necessities such as furniture and stationery.

“Their offices lack the budget to arrange things so they can do their work properly,” he said. “This issue was raised a long time ago, and I have made these recommendations since 2003. Lawmakers must be on duty in their provincial offices, especially when parliament is in recess.”

Most lawmakers, he added, spent the vast majority of their time in Phnom Penh.

Nhem Thavy, a Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker and spokesman of the National Assembly, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Chheang Vun, another CPP lawmaker and who is the spokesman for the assembly, declined to comment.

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