CNRP, CPP to Discuss Judicial Reform at National Assembly

The CNRP said on Tuesday it would join today’s meeting of the National Assembly’s agenda-setting permanent committee in hopes of pushing ahead with proposed amendments to a trio of contentious laws on judicial independence.

“The committee chairs from Sam Rainsy will attend tomorrow,” party spokesman Yim Sovann said on Tuesday, referring to the CNRP by the name of its president.

The opposition party has been boycotting Assembly plenary sessions for the past several months in protest over the arrests of two of its lawmakers while picking and choosing which permanent committee meetings to attend.

“It depends on the topic,” Mr. Sovann said, noting that today’s agenda included the CNRP’s proposed amendments to the country’s three so-called “fundamental laws,” which set out the government’s relationship with the courts.

A CPP-only National Assembly approved the long-awaited laws in 2014, promising they would help clean up the country’s corruption-riddled courts. The CNRP, which was in the midst of another Assembly boycott at the time, said the laws merely entrenched the government’s overbearing control of the judicial system and has since been pressing for amendments.

“Indeed, these three laws will be discussed,” Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long said on Tuesday.

The permanent committee could decide today to send the proposed amendments to one or more of the Assembly’s 10 commissions for review.

Mr. Peng Long said the permanent committee was also scheduled to assign commissions to review the draft national budget for next year and an evaluation of last year’s government expenditures. He said the committee may also schedule a National Assembly vote on whether to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The CNRP very nearly ended its latest boycott of the National Assembly by joining a plenary session earlier this month, but changed its mind at the last minute and stayed away, citing security concerns.

Mr. Sovann said there was little chance of an about-face today as there was a relative lull in tensions between the CPP and CNRP.

“The environment is OK,” he said. “And one of the laws is the draft law proposed by the opposition,” he added, referring to the suggested amendments to the judicial laws.

Soon after the laws were passed in 2014, legal and human rights groups warned that they would cement the government’s “existing control over the country’s judges and prosecutors, posing a serious threat to the rule of law in Cambodia.”

The country is widely perceived both at home and abroad as having one of the most corrupt court systems in the world. In the World Justice Project’s latest rule of law index, based on surveys with residents in 113 countries, Cambodia ranked second from last.

Over the past year, the government has arrested and laid charges against more than two dozen opposition figures and human rights workers in cases both the U.N. and the U.S. have called politicized.

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