Assembly Members Quarrel Over Border Letter

National Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun again went on the attack Friday against CNRP lawmaker Um Sam An, who has been at the fore of the opposition’s recent campaign to highlight Vietnam’s alleged incursions into Cambodia.

Mr. Vun called a press conference at the parliament in Phnom Penh to explain why National Assembly President Heng Sam­rin decided not to endorse a letter this week from Mr. Sam An to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting that the government halt border demarcation until after the 2018 national election. 

Responding to claims from Mr. Sam An that his constitutional right to pose questions to the government had been violated by Mr. Samrin, Mr. Vun said the letter laid out demands rather than posing questions.

“And the three branches of power cannot meddle with each other, which means it’s impossible for the legislative body to order the executive to do this or that,” Mr. Vun said.

“That is why samdech president [Mr. Samrin] and legal experts at the National Assembly have judged that his request is interference in the executive power by lawmakers.”

Mr. Vun called on Mr. Sam An to cease escalating the issue, and said the National Assembly’s judicial council would review whether “administrative action” should be taken against the opposition lawmaker.

“He accuses samdech president of not respecting the Constitution…but he himself violated the Constitution and is not fit to be a member of the National Assembly in the new political context in Cambodia,” Mr. Vun said of Mr. Sam An.

Mr. Sam An said by telephone that Mr. Vun’s argument ignored the fact that the letter from he and other CNRP lawmakers also posed questions about the government’s border work.

“I’m not the one who has abused the Constitution, Sam­dech Heng Samrin is,” he said.

“And Chheang Vun didn’t read the lawmakers’ letter because our letter raised two points: First, it asked for temporary postponement of border demarcation and, second, it proposed questions about land swapping and where the swaps took place.”

Mr. Sam An accused the National Assembly president of refusing to endorse the letter because land swaps with Vietnam were a politically sensitive issue, and said he was not worried about being punished for his claims that Mr. Samrin had violated the Constitution.

“It’s just a threat. I’m a lawmaker who knows the law,” Mr. Sam An said.

Mr. Vun and Mr. Sam An had a verbal sparring match earlier this month following a meeting at the National Assembly, when the CPP lawmaker refused to allow his CNRP counterpart to speak to journalists, even threatening to have security guards intervene.

At the end of yesterday’s press conference, Mr. Vun told photographers to refrain from taking close-up photos of him, because such images were being used in an inflammatory way on social media sites.

“If you want to take a photo of me, please take it from a distance, not close-up for attacking,” he said. “Using photos for attacking on Facebook is not good because it is not providing a good future for Cambodia’s media.”

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