Khmer Times/Taing Vida Monday, 14 December 2015 7956 views

Opposition Ends Boycott of National Assembly

Opposition lawmakers will return to the National Assembly tomorrow after a two-month boycott, saying they are doing so to maintain and strengthen their “culture of dialogue” with the ruling Cambodia People’s Party. 

The decision was made after a meeting of the assembly’s permanent commission, which sets the agenda for the assembly, said Yem Ponhearith, a spokesman for the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).  

“We (CNRP lawmakers) will attend the next plenary session in accordance with the joint statement made by the deputy leaders of both parties, CNRP vice president Kem Sokha and CPP deputy Sar Kheng. Our participation aims to continue strengthening the culture of dialogue and ensuring the democratic process in the country [continues to develop],” Mr. Ponhearith said.

The assembly will resume its 5th session tomorrow at 8 am with three draft laws on the agenda, according to a statement from the assembly’s general secretariat yesterday. The first is a bill concerning new protocols for amending World Trade Organization agreements. The second is a bill on an agreement to set up a center for biological diversity in ASEAN and the third is a draft law on animal health and livestock-raising.

CPP spokesman Chheang Vun said the CNRP’s decision to return to the National Assembly did not surprise him.  “I’m neither happy nor scared that they decided to return. This is their duty as lawmakers. They should not have boycotted [the assembly] in the first place,” Mr. Vun said. 

The CNRP began its boycott of the assembly after Mr. Sokha was stripped of his position as its first vice president at the end of October, following rising tension between the ruling and opposition parties. Members of the two parties met last week and agreed to set up a joint commission to review and comment on the draft law on trade unions and to set up a working group to examine how to make the cultural dialogue work better. 

The “culture of dialogue” refers to the more genteel discussions leaders of the two parties said would arise, after the two parties reached an agreement in July of last year that ended a yearlong boycott of the National Assembly by the CNRP. The agreement included the formation of an independent election commission. 

Senate spokesman Um Sarith confirmed yesterday that four opposition members attended a meeting on a new law on statistics. “Four of the 11 Sam Rainsy Party senators joined the meeting,” he said, referring to one of the two opposition parties that merged to form the CNRP after the last Senate elections in 2012. “They were active in the discussion... They should not boycott,” Mr. Sarith said.

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