CNRP to Oppose PM’s New Cabinet, Consider Draft Union Law

The opposition CNRP plans to vote against a reshuffle of the prime minister’s cabinet during a plenary session of parliament today, but will wait to see what changes have been made to a controversial union law before deciding how to vote, a party spokesman said on Sunday.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the ministerial changes put forward by Prime Minister Hun Sen last month would be futile.

“About the cabinet, we will not approve,” Mr. Sovann said. “We don’t think the result will be more effective, because the same faces will have the same result.”

Mr. Hun Sen has proposed changing eight ministers, but only Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong and Land Management Minister Im Chhun Lim are set to step down, with the other ministers changing portfolios. The ministers set to move include those running the ministries of agriculture, rural affairs, commerce, transport, telecommunications and religion.

Holding the majority of National Assembly seats, CPP lawmakers will still pass the cabinet changes, according to party spokesman Sok Eysan.

The other major bill set for a vote today is the Trade Union Law, which has been in the works for years and repeatedly blasted by both unions and employers. Mr. Sovann said the CNRP would review recent changes to the law before deciding how to vote.

“About the union law, wait and see. We requested some amendments, if they agree we will vote [in favor]. If they don’t make amendments, I don’t think we will vote to approve it,” he said.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has also been critical of the law, saying that the government risks breaching international conventions and domestic law with certain provisions. In a letter dated March 10, the ILO wrote to Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng and said the latest draft still fell short of these commitments.

Although it noted some improvements to the draft law, the ILO said more were needed. In particular, it said that rules defining who would be eligible to head a union could conflict with the fundamental right to associate.

It also said that new rules requiring a union boss to have a clean criminal record should only apply for certain crimes, in order to remain consistent with the ILO convention on freedom of association and the right to organize.

“The broad nature of the current condition, which refers to any offense, is likely to be found contrary to the provisions of the Convention, given in particular the possibilities of conviction for trade union activity, including industrial action,” it said.

Representatives of the Labor Ministry could not be contacted to say whether any of the ILO’s concerns had been addressed in the draft submitted to parliament.

(Additional reporting by Kang Sothear)

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