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National Assembly to meet soon on draft emergency law

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
National Assembly members raise hands during a vote in parliament. National Assembly

The National Assembly is expected to meet soon to debate the State of Emergency Law draft which the government has deemed to be a matter of “urgency.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen has also written a letter to Senate President Say Chhum asking him to convene an emergency session of the Senate, which is on vacation, to debate on the draft law after it is passed by the National Assembly.

National Assembly Spokesman Leng Peng Long said yesterday the government had already sent the draft law to the National Assembly which had ended its three-month vacation period.

“We received the new draft law on the State of Emergency on Friday, at 5 pm but we don’t work over the weekend,” he said. “So the National Assembly president will convene a Permanent Committee soon to decide whether to send the draft law to an expert committee to study.”

National Assembly president Heng Samrin had said last week the fourth parliament session in the 6th legislative mandate started on April 2 but no opening session due to the COVID -19 pandemic.

“The Permanent Committee has postponed all unnecessary meetings, including the reopening of the National Assembly of the 4th session of the 6th legislative,” Mr Samrin said.

In a separate statement last week, the National Assembly also said in line with measures laid out by the Ministry of Health and World Health Organization, the Permanent Committee had also decided not to invite lawmakers to attend the legislative session.

However, Mr Peng Long said yesterday the “State of Emergency” draft law was considered as very important and it is necessary to call lawmakers to work on it.

However, he said he was not sure when the Permanent Committee will be able to hold a meeting.

To become law, the draft needs to pass through the National Assembly, Senate, Constitutional Council and sent to King Norodom Sihamoni for final approval.

Currently, the Senate is still on its three-month vacation period.

Mr Hun Sen on Friday sent a letter to Mr Chhum, calling for the Senate to hold a plenary session to debate on “The State of Emergency” law, citing Article 107 of the Constitution.

The article states “The Senate shall convene in ordinary sessions twice a year. Each session shall last at least three months. Upon the request from the King or upon the proposal of the Prime Minister or at least one-third of the Senators, the Senate shall convene in an extraordinary session.”

Heng Samrin casts a ballot at a National Assembly sitting. National Assembly

“I have the honour to inform [Mr Chhum] that the royal government needs the law on ‘The State of Emergency’ which it considers as urgent to implement its programme,” Mr Hun Sen said. “As the Senate is still on vacation, please Samdech Senate president call for a plenary [session] to inspect and debate the law after the National Assembly has debated, approved and sent it to the Senate.”

Senate spokesman Mam Bun Neang could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said yesterday: “I think this law will pass the two legislative bodies next week. Even they are still on the vacation, I believe they can hold a plenary session based on a request made by the prime minister.”

Mr Phea said he understands the National Assembly’s Permanent Committee will hold a meeting to discuss the draft law early this week before sending it to an expert committee to study.

“After the Permanent Committee has inspected the law, they will send it to a plenary session to discuss,” he said. “I think they will spend half a day in the morning to approve the draft law before sending it to Senate.”

Mr Phea said even if the law is passed the government could still reconsider using it if the COVID-19 situation in the Kingdom improves.

“If the COVID-19 pandemic does not become high risk, such as spreading in the community, the government will not put the country in a state of emergency,” he said. “But if there are serious infections in the community and people still do not follow the instructions given by the Ministry of Health, the government will consider putting some areas or cities or provinces under a ‘State of Emergency’ to avoid further spread of the virus.”

During a state of emergency the government will have the right to impose several measures, including the prohibition or restriction of freedom of movement, right to freedom of gathering of people and work or occupation.

As of yesterday, the Kingdom has recorded 114 COVID-19 cases, including 49 Cambodians, 40 French, 13 Malaysians, five Britons, two Americans, two Indonesians, one Canadian, one Belgian, and one Chinese. Of them, 50 have been cured.

No new cases were reported on Saturday and yesterday.

Additionally, Mr Hun Sen who also heads the National Committee for Combating the COVID-19 said he has ordered the purchase of 10 million face masks to distribute to people and doctors nationwide.

In a voice message addressed to the committee on Saturday and also posted on his official Facebook page yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said the Kingdom must ensure the sufficiency of face masks, protective clothing and sanitisers.

Other items being ordered include 5,000 hazmat suits, 5,000 surgical masks and one million litres of alcohol-based sanitisers.


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