Senior CPP lawmakers on Thursday said members of the recently formed Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) had no legal right to be in the National Assembly, but were being tolerated only by the grace of assembly President Heng Samrin.
Since the opposition SRP and Human Rights Party last year merged to form the CNRP to contest July’s national elections as one, their lawmakers have continued to serve in the assembly under the new party’s banner.
But with less than three months to go until polling day, the CPP this week started to insist that CNRP members be barred from sitting in the assembly on the grounds that they have not yet been voted in.
In Parliament on Wednesday, senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap submitted a letter to Mr. Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen asking them to freeze the wages of CNRP members.
He continued his line of attack Thursday during a heated session at the assembly that had been reserved for debate on a new law on farmers cooperatives, singling out CNRP lawmaker Yim Sovann, who used Thursday’s debate to present lawmakers with the opposition party’s campaign platform for the national elections.
“His Excellency Yim Sovann’s name is with the CNRP, which cannot be here,” Mr. Yeap said. “You are a member of a new party that doesn’t have seats in the National Assembly.”
“I would like to say that it is the sympathy and understanding of the National Assembly president that allows you to be here,” he continued. “Really, you are supposed to be kicked out. Legally there should be no CNRP here.”
Mr. Yeap also attacked the CNRP for raising the name of party president Sam Rainsy, who is presently living in self-imposed exile to avoid an 11-year jail sentence—reduced from 12—on charges he and his supporters believe to be groundless and politically motivated.
“You cannot use Sam Rainsy, the convict, who has been sentenced to 12 years in prison and has not served his jail term,” Mr. Yeap said.
National Assembly Vice President Nguon Nhel told CNRP lawmakers they had no right to use the parliamentary session to speak about anything other than the law up for debate.
“You are no longer lawmakers for the SRP. I don’t know who you represent while sitting here since you have already resigned,” he said. “You attack the CPP and attack the government, which is banned in the National Assembly’s internal rules.”
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said in Parliament on Thursday that vice president Kem Sokha and president Sam Rainsy would increase the minimum wage to $150 per month and promised to provide free health and education nationwide if it is voted into power in July.
“I don’t want to mention the name of the party, but if I don’t it is hard. I am here on behalf of president Sam Rainsy and vice president Kem Sokha,” he said.
Speaking after the debate, Mr. Sovann said Thursday’s discussion in Parliament was mere proof of the lack of debate that takes place in the National Assembly.
“There is no law stipulating that I cannot mention someone’s name. They see the popularity of the CNRP rising, so they try to stop the CNRP from talking,” Mr. Sovann said after Thursday’s session.
However, Hang Puthea, executive director of the National and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, an independent election monitoring NGO, said the CPP was right about the CNRP having no legal standing in the National Assembly just yet.
“According to the law, it is so; it is the nature of the law,” he said.
The Law on Elections of Members of the National Assembly says that members must lose their seats in the case of a “loss of membership from his/her political party.”
But the same law also gives the party the right to chose a replacement if the member loses his or her seat inside six months of the end of a legislative term.