First CPP National Assembly Plenary Session Set for Thursday

The National Assembly will hold its first plenary session meeting on Thursday since Prime Minister Hun Sen’s 68 members of parliament last month approved an Assembly president and chairpersons to head the body’s nine committees, and despite the opposition CNRP still refusing to take their 55 seats in parliament.

The chairpersons of the nine committees, who together make up the Assembly’s permanent committee and were voted in unanimously by the CPP’s 68 lawmakers on September 24, will also hold their first meeting tomorrow.

“The permanent committee will hold its meeting on October 8 in the afternoon, and the [Assembly’s] plenary session will be held later,” said CPP lawmaker and Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun, confirming that the plenary session would take place on Thursday.

Mr. Vun and Koam Kosal, cabinet chief to Assembly President Heng Samrin, both declined to comment on the agenda of the meetings.

Cambodia Express News reported CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, the party’s de facto spokesman, saying on Friday that the Assembly would be voting on the CPP’s remaining membership of the nine committees, which all have at least seven members.

“The first plenary session will be held on October 10 in order to appoint and vote on the members of the National Assembly’s nine technical committees,” Mr. Yeap was quoted as saying.

The CPP’s 68 lawmakers opened the first meeting of the National Assembly since July’s disputed national election, which the opposition is still claiming to have won, on September 23. During that meeting they voted in Mr. Samrin to another term as Assembly president, approved the chairpersons and vice chairpersons of its nine committees and confirmed Mr. Hun Sen’s new Cabinet the next day.

The CNRP considers the current one-party Assembly, with only the CPP taking its seats, unconstitutional and illegitimate.

CNRP spokesman and lawmaker-elect Yim Sovann said Sunday that the opposition had not been invited to participate in selecting the Assembly committee members and dismissed the coming meeting.

“We do not pay attention to that, and the voters too don’t pay attention to that, because after the 23rd of September the Royal Government that formed is illegitimate and also the National Assembly is illegitimate,” he said.

He said the CPP should wait to fill the committee posts until the two parties work out a negotiated settlement to their election dispute and the opposition takes its seats.

Negotiations between the two parties have gone nowhere since two days of closed-door talks between Mr. Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy stalled in mid-September.

Mr. Hun Sen later claimed that he offered the opposition chairmanship of four of the Assembly’s nine committees but rejected the CNRP’s demand for the Assembly’s presidency.

Mr. Sovann declined to comment either on the prime minister’s offers or the opposition’s de­mands during the negotiations.

“We want checks and balance…to make change very quickly,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Mr. Sovann also said the CNRP still had no immediate plans to join the Assembly and that the two parties were no closer to returning to the negotiating table.

(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)

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