CNRP Lawmaker Punished Over Facebook Post

Opposition lawmaker Um Sam An has been suspended from the next 15 sessions of parliament and will have his salary cut as punishment for critical comments he posted to Facebook earlier this month, according to a statement issued Friday by the National Assembly’s Sec­retariat General.

Mr. Sam An, whose post on July 14 claimed that CPP Assembly President Heng Samrin had unconstitutionally blocked a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen, will also be publicly shamed through notifications posted at commune offices in his constituency of Siem Reap province, the statement said. 

“His Excellency Um Sam An, a lawmaker for Siem Reap province, is reprimanded and received disciplinary action in accordance with Article 81 of the National Assembly’s internal rules as follows: A, cut 50 percent of wages for two months. B, publicly display punishment notifications and print it to display in all communes of Siem Reap. C, ban from taking office at the National Assembly for 15 respective sessions,” the statement reads.

Mr. Samrin refused to endorse a July 6 letter from Mr. Sam An and 11 other CNRP lawmakers calling for the government to halt demarcation of Cambodia’s border with Vietnam until 2018, and asking for the government to explain land swaps along the Vietnamese border.

Responding to the ensuing Facebook post by Mr. Sam An, National Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun said last week that the decision was made because the letter amounted to a demand rather than questions.

However, Mr. Sam An insists that his constitutional right as a lawmaker to put questions to the government was violated, and that the letter was not forwarded to Mr. Hun Sen because of its politically sensitive subject matter.

Friday’s decision to punish the CNRP parliamentarian was made during a meeting of the National Assembly’s 13-member permanent committee, according to Eng Chhay Eang, one of six CNRP lawmakers on the committee.

Mr. Chhay Eang said the move to punish Mr. Sam An was proposed in a letter endorsed by 50 ruling party lawmakers, and approved by the seven CPP lawmakers on the permanent committee.

“In brief, we didn’t vote in support,” Mr. Chhay Eang said of the CNRP members.

Mr. Sam An said on Friday that the punishment was overly harsh and that he would try to meet with Mr. Samrin to “finish this story.”

“Actually, we want to find a political compromise with Samdech Heng Samrin to finish this story,” he said. “Because I think we should not argue among Khmer, but we need to focus on border issues to the north, west and east sides.”

Mr. Sam An, along with CNRP lawmaker Real Camerin, has been at the fore of a recent campaign to spotlight Vietnamese border encroachments, which has sparked a public relations battle with the CPP government.

In recent weeks, the Foreign Affairs Ministry has sent a number of terse diplomatic notes to Vietnam asking it to withdraw from territory that is either in Cambodia or still disputed.

Mr. Hun Sen has even taken the unprecedented step of admitting that some posts along the border with Vietnam may have been placed inside Cambodian territory, promising to “demand corrections” in such cases.

Asked on Friday about the punishment handed down to Mr. Sam An, Mr. Vun, the National Assembly spokesman and a CPP lawmaker, said he did not want to discuss the issue.

“Don’t ask me to speak. I don’t want to speak, do you understand?” the spokesman said. “So I ask you not to mess around, and let others deal with this situation.”

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