Assembly Passes Bilateral Agreement With US

The National Assembly on Wed­­nesday ratified a bilateral agreement with the US, promising not to extradite US citizens for pro­se­cu­tion by the International Crim­inal Court.

All 89 lawmakers present at the As­sembly approved the pact, which also prevents the US from sur­rendering Cambodian citizens to the ICC.

The agreement was proposed by former US secretary of state Co­­lin Po­­well during a 2003 visit to Cam­bo­dia, but ratification was de­layed dur­ing the post-2003 election deadlock.

Long Visalo, secretary of state for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Assembly that the pact “will further improve cooperation b­etween Cambodia and the US.”

Citizens from the US and Cam­bo­­dia may still be sent to the ICC, but only with the approval of their home countries, he added.

Assembly President Prince No­ro­­­dom Ranariddh, who has in re­cent months expressed antagonism toward the US, told lawmakers that the agreement benefits the US more than it does Cam­bo­dia, especially given that Cam­bo­dians don’t travel abroad with as much frequency as US nationals.

Countering Long Visalo’s praise of the US, he added: “I don’t agree with you that the US keeps peace in the world.”

In February, Prince Ranariddh lash­­ed out at the US and vowed ne­ver to visit the US again after a US sen­ator criticized the Assem­bly for stripping three opposition par­ty lawmakers of their parlia­men­tary im­mu­nity.

Also during Tuesday’s Assem­bly session, the 89 lawmakers present approved an amendment to the Constitution to lower the quorum for Assembly meetings.

The amendment requires the pre­­­sence of only 74 of the Assem­bly’s 123 parliamentarians to hold re­­­gular sessions, which currently need a quorum of 87 lawmakers. But when passing laws that require a two-thirds ma­­­jority vote—such as the ap­point­ment of go­vernment officials—the Assem­bly will still re­quire the current quorum of 87 lawmakers.

The Senate and King Norodom Si­­hamoni must still approve the amendment before it goes into ef­fect.

In recent months, the As­sembly has canceled several sessions after lawmakers failed to show up for work. Prince Ranariddh warned lawmakers Wednesday not to let an­other lack of quorum happen. But just as the Assembly session mov­­ed on to vote on an article on Sen­ate elections, they discovered that on­ly 86 lawmakers re­main­ed in the meeting, forcing the session to a halt because of a lack of quorum.

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