After five days of debate, the National Assembly on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to pass the new “organic” law, which will redraw the civic map of Cambodia.
Under the new law, which 81 of 88 lawmakers voted in favor of, the municipalities of Kep and Sihanoukville will be reclassified as provinces. It also provides for new layers of local administration, with municipal, province, and district councilors to be chosen by commune councilors.
SRP and Funcinpec lawmakers had called for an explicit sanction against corruption to be introduced into the law. SRP lawmakers also pushed for new local councilors to be chosen by general election, rather than by CPP-dominated commune councils; and they asked to slim down local bureaucracy.
None of those changes were included in the version of the law adopted Tuesday.
SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann told the Assembly he feared that the new law would, like many Cambodian laws, exist only on paper and urged Interior Minister Sar Kheng to fully implement its provisions. National Assembly President Heng Samrin responded by switching off Yim Sovann’s microphone on the grounds that he had spoken “off -topic.”
Sar Kheng then accused Yim Sovann of violating the regulations that govern National Assembly debates by expressing his broad “concerns” rather than sticking to narrow recommendations for improving the law.
Yim Sovann promptly walked out of the session, saying that censorship for speaking “off-topic” is a common CPP tactic to control Assembly debates.
Before the vote, SRP lawmaker Son Chhay also objected to a provision that calls for the dismissal of local councilors absent twice without notice. He said he feared the measure could be abused to dismiss officials from opposing parties whimsically—a practice he says the CPP already indulges in.
Sar Kheng responded that councilors who violate the law must be punished.
“Son Chhay’s comment is not correct. Two absences are regarded as work inefficiency,” he said.