Assembly Debate Continues on New Organic Law

The National Assembly on Thursday entered the second day of debate on a new organic law, which would redefine the map of Cambodia and create the first ever government councilors at the district and provincial level.

Lawmakers approved the second of the draft law’s eight chapters and are expected to continue the debate today.

During Wednesday’s debate, Interior Minister Sar Kheng, who defended the draft for the government, said that the law was needed to address geographic and demographic realities of Cambodia.

Under the law, urbanized areas such as Poipet and Siem Reap town would fall under the newly created designation of “cities.” The law also calls for the creation of government councils at the district, city, and provincial/municipal level; the members of which will be selected by commune councilors. The planned councils are meant to act as local legislatures to draw up action plans and recommendations for district and provincial governors, which will continue to be appointed by the Interior Ministry.

“The law will promote democracy and local participation [in development] under government control,” Sar Kheng told the Assembly.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay criticized the provision in the law calling for commune councilors to elect the new district and provincial councilors instead of having them selected by popular elections.

“The CPP wants to use the change to consolidate power; they want to lay a power foundation,” he said, noting that the vast majority of commune councilors are CPP.

Son Chhay also questioned the speed with which the law came before the Assembly.

Funcinpec lawmaker Monh Saphan said he was concerned the draft only gave the appearance of decentralization of power to commune councilors, because even though they will select the district and provincial/municipal councils, real power still lay with the Interior Ministry-appointed governors.

“Real power should be shared with the commune councilors,” he said.

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