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Strong rhetoric snuck into budget

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National Assembly's permanent committee members hold a meeting on Monday in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Strong rhetoric snuck into budget

The final draft of the $6 billion proposed budget for 2018, currently under consideration at the National Assembly, contains strong language on the protection of national security and vows to prevent any attempts to create “chaos and turmoil”, mirroring nationalistic and anti-opposition rhetoric emanating from government officials.

The draft, which will be voted on by parliament on Friday, details a $6 billion budget including significant increases to education, health and defence spending, but also contains language expressing concerns about protecting social stability in the run-up to major elections next year.

Two thousand eighteen “is the year of elections to the Senate and National Assembly and the government must ensure both elections go smoothly . . . as well as prevent any attempt that intends to make chaos, turmoil and instability in the nation”, the budget reads.

The budget will be voted on by the National Assembly a day after the Supreme Court convenes to hear a Ministry of Interior request to dissolve the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party over widely derided accusations that it colluded with foreign powers to foment “revolution” and topple the government.

CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay said the inclusion of such “scary language”, which echoed that of government and ruling party officials, suggested the country was becoming a “police state”.

“To add this to a legal document – it should not happen,” he said. “Yeah, this kind of message has been around for a while but it is unacceptable.”

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