The National Assembly on Tuesday convened its second plenary session after a three-month break, amid an ongoing boycott of parliament by all 55 opposition CNRP lawmakers-elect.
The 65 CPP lawmakers present throughout the meeting passed a law on the clearance of the government’s 2012 budget, and Assembly President Heng Samrin read out a letter from King Norodom Sihamoni, who convened the first session of the National Assembly in September.
“I hope the most respected National Assembly, which represents the entire Khmer people, will continue its efforts to solve any challenging issues in order to achieve Cambodia’s goals step by step…by strictly adhering to a democratic and multiparty basis,” the King’s letter, read out by Mr. Samrin, said.
The last time parliament met was in December, when CPP lawmakers approved the 2014 budget and reinstated Suy Sem as the Minister of Mines and Energy. With 68 seats in the 123-seat Assembly, the CPP is able to pass laws with a simple majority, but cannot change the Constitution, which would require a two-thirds vote.
Addressing parliament Tuesday, Nguon Nhel, first deputy president of the assembly, said CPP lawmakers had been busy in recent months visiting their constituent provinces and drafting laws.
Items on the National Assembly’s agenda for this session include a law on roads and amendments to a trade agreement between Cambodia and Vietnam.
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) released a statement Tuesday calling on ruling party lawmakers to refrain from passing new laws, especially those related to human rights, until the CPP’s political deadlock with the CNRP is resolved.
“CCHR is concerned that with only Cambodian People’s Party [members of parliament] sitting in the National Assembly, draft laws will not be sufficiently scrutinized and will not represent the will of the people,” the statement said.
Of particular concern are a number of laws already in the legislative pipeline, including laws on judicial reform, a draft NGO law, the trade union law and the country’s first cyber law.
“Each of these laws will have far-reaching impacts on the status of human rights in Cambodia, in particular with regard to freedom of expression, fair trials rights and freedom of association and collective bargaining,” the statement said.
CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said that the “de facto” parliament did not have the authority to pass new laws without the participation of opposition lawmakers.
“We hope that the CPP understands this and doesn’t have the idea to go ahead and adopt these laws,” he said. “I hope they would wait until the political deadlock will be solved.”