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Opposition to End Boycott

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:

Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) MPs are to end their boycott of parliament, saying the national interest takes priority.
 
The boycott started in May after security forces tried to arrest deputy party leader Kem Sokha after he refused to attend court for questioning over an alleged affair.
 
The opposition will also press for Soun Rida, the candidate for Kampong Speu province, to replace Pen Sovann, the CNRP MP who died last month.
 
The replacement has been approved by the National Election Committee. Yesterday, the CNRP sent a letter to the National Assembly, asking for the replacement to be put on the permanent committee agenda for discussion on Tuesday.
 
CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith confirmed party MPs would end the boycott.
 
“We think it’s time. We did not make any conditions for resuming the session, but we are more concerned about laws being passed and the budget being spent without votes from the opposition,” Mr. Ponhearith said.
 
Cambodian People’s Party MP and spokesman Chheang Vun said it was no surprised that the CNRP MPs were returning. He said opposition MPs should not boycott the assembly and should carry out their obligations.
 
“The National Assembly will work normally with or without them,” said Mr. Vun.
 
Last month, the National Assembly’s CPP-dominated permanent committee approved new fines for absentee MPs and rejected the opposition’s proposed amendments to a trio of contentious laws on judicial independence.
 
The two parties have been locked in a stalemate as authorities have stripped several MPs of their legislative immunity and put some on trial for a variety of offenses.
 
Many of these appear to be aimed at undercutting the CNRP before the local elections in 2017 and the national elections in 2018.
 
Meanwhile, an international body which promotes parliamentary values and procedures has pleaded with the government to ensure respect for human rights and urged the major parties to return to a culture of dialogue.
 
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which has permanent observer status at the United Nations, called on the government to ensure laws were enforced without prejudice in cases involving opposition Members of Parliament and for upcoming elections to be free and fair.
 
The IPU’s governing council met last month and released a report yesterday.
 
The report said the culture of dialogue, which both sides created to end political deadlock in July 2014, was still critical to resolving conflicts and returning politics to normal.
 
The IPU urged the government to respect the immunity of CNRP MPs, ensure that MPs’ rights of expression are protected and for them to get equal rights protected by law in line with international standards of democracy.
 
The international body said it was ready to facilitate political discussion and provide technical assistance for the parliament to speed up talks on political solutions as well as ending unfair legal cases against opposition MPs and senators.
 
The IPU listed studies of complaints and charges which arose after the 2013 election and which involved 15 CNRP MPs and senators.
 
These were Chan Cheng, Mu Sochua, Keo Phirum, Ho Vann, Long Ry, Nut Romdoul, Men Sothavarin, Real Khemarin, Hong Sok Hour, Kong Saphea, Nhay Chamreoun, Sam Rainsy, Um Sam An, Kem Sokha and Thak Lany.
 
Complaints against these 15 showed attempts by the ruling party to oppress and eliminate opposition voices, especially aimed at keeping party leaders including Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Sokha away from 2017 commune elections and national elections in 2018.
 
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said he welcomed the IPU suggestions, but he still believed that Cambodia is on the right democratic path.
 
In the cases of opposition MPs who have been charged in criminal cases, the matters were for the courts to work on independently of political motivation.
 
“Even if they are MPs, they have to be responsible under the law if they do something wrong. The CPP cannot hold any negotiations which influence the court system,” Mr. Eysan said.
 
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said he considered all legal issues of CNRP MPs to be politically motivated and this was known in international and national circles. The government should not ignore or dismiss these concerns.
 
“Our party still wants negotiations. Acting party president Kem Sokha has contacted CPP leaders, but there is no response yet.”
 
In September, 39 nations released statements deeply concerned about the escalation of political tensions in Cambodia, which threatens legitimate activities by opposition parties and human rights NGOs.
 
There was particular concern about the appearance that legal action was being disproportionately pursued against critics of the government.
 
And there was equal concern about the “culture of dialogue” between the two main political parties, which has ceased to function.
 
Also in September, Cambodia’s ambassador to the UN said some parties manipulated, incited and dramatized the situation and stirred instability in Cambodia.
 
As a democratic country, the government has an obligation to enforce the rule of law to maintain stability and security for private and public interests, he said.

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