The National Assembly on Tuesday officially rebuked the U.S. government for meddling in Cambodia’s internal affairs after its criticism of the expulsion of 27 opposition lawmakers from their parliamentary positions.
The U.S. State Department said in a statement on Saturday that stripping the lawmakers of their parliamentary status “deprives the Cambodian people of their voice and hurts the democratic process in Cambodia” ahead of the national election next month.
On Monday, CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun held a press conference in response to the statement and accused the U.S. of harboring “colonial ideas” toward Cambodia.
The assembly followed suit with its official statement on Tuesday.
“The National Assembly of Cambodia is extremely worried about…the United States interfering in the internal affairs of Cambodia’s National Assembly,” the statement reads.
“This is unacceptable,” the statement continues.
“The National Assembly of Cambodia is very dismayed and disappointed with the press release of the [State Department] of the United States dated June 8, 2013…. The National Assembly of Cambodia would like to clarify that all of the National Assembly’s actions are in compliance with the law and impartial.”
On Monday, U.S. Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh said the U.S.’ intent in making the statement was “to help promote a democratic process in Cambodia.”
Asked to comment on the assembly’s rebuke, Mr. McIntosh said Tuesday that the U.S. was standing by the statement.
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay, who was one of the 27 opposition party members expelled last Wednesday, said the assembly’s statement was true to form of an institution where only a single party is represented.
“It doesn’t surprise me since the CPP is leading the National Assembly as a single party,” he said. “They refuse to take any international advice.”
The assembly first informed 27 members of the SRP and Human Rights Party—as well as two members of the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP)—that they had been stripped of their status and salaries because they had effectively resigned when their parties merged to form the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), in the case of the opposition members, and Funcinpec in the case of the NRP members.
Tuesday’s statement repeats the government’s stance that the lawmakers effectively left their old parties when they joined their new parties, and had, therefore, automatically given up their rights to their parliamentary seats.
The CPP-dominated assembly has cited its interpretation of various laws and internal rules to justify the mass expulsion.
The opposition has challenged the decision, insisting its 27 members had never resigned from their old parties. Independent observers and election monitors have also questioned the government’s interpretation of the laws cited to justify its action.
CPP lawmaker Mr. Vun, who has been outspoken in his denunciation of the U.S. and the expelled lawmakers, was adamant Tuesday that the move was constitutional, but he made a vague reference to “problems” with the assembly’s internal rules, which he declined to elaborate upon.
“There are still flaws, but the internal rules of the National Assembly cannot be changed now. We can only talk about it after the formation of a new National Assembly,” he said, referring to the national election on July 28.
On Monday, Mr. Vun ordered Mr. Chhay out of the assembly compound, and threatened to have security guards physically remove him should he refuse.
Mr. Chhay has vowed to continue using his office at the assembly until he is forcibly prevented from doing so.
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