Funcinpec Lawmakers End Boycott

Boycotting Funcinpec lawmakers returned to work Thursday, enabling the National Assembly to meet for the first time in a week.

The Assembly passed the so­cial security legislation that was left in limbo by the four-day boycott, which began last Friday by opposition and some Fun­cinpec members.

The Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers did not attend on Thursday but said they would return to work today. But with 91 lawmakers present the legislative body was able to convene.

The social security law, which will provide injury, retirement and other benefits to workers, passed easily, with 90 votes.

Lawmakers have previously argued that the law was too vague—for example, it doesn’t say what percentage of workers’ paychecks will be withheld by employers to go to the fund that will dispense the benefits.

They have also expressed concerns that such a system could open the door to corruption, with workers losing a percentage of their earnings only to line officials’ pockets.

Funcinpec lawmaker Keo Re­my, who did not join the boycott, echoed some of these worries on the Assembly’s floor on Thursday. He said he doubted the law would be implemented property because the current bureaucracy is not up to such a massive administrative task.

He also complained that there is no provision in the law stipulating that employers or government, not just workers, also contribute to the social security fund.

The state should contribute part of the fund because workers’ wages are low, he said. But he voted for the law anyway, saying it was important to ensure the rights of workers.

Meanwhile, Assembly First Vice President Heng Samrin expressed satisfaction that the boycott had ended. “I’m very glad the assembly has attained a quorum and is able to meet,” he said. “This reflects cooperation between the CPP and Funcinpec.”

The boycotters were protesting last Thursday’s Assembly vote rejecting Funcinpec’s nominee for co-minister of Interior, RCAF Deputy Commander-in-Chief Khan Savoeun. They charged that CPP lawmakers conspired to block the nomination by abstaining en masse, preventing Khan Savoeun from getting the two-thirds vote he needed.

All 15 Sam Rainsy Party members and at least 15 Funcinpec lawmakers stayed away, saying they wanted to send a signal to the ruling CPP, Funcinpec’s partner in the lopsided coalition government.

But nearly all the Funcinpec absentees returned Thursday despite having struck no deal with the CPP on a new co-Interior minister.

They have said, though, they hope the memory of the boycott will give them leverage with the CPP when debate begins on amending the election law.

That debate, which is likely to focus on changing the makeup of the much-criticized National Election Committee for next year’s national elections, is scheduled to begin today.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said his party’s parliamentarians would return to their seats today, in the hopes that the boycott has changed the way things are done in the Assembly.

But party president Sam Rainsy will have to miss the crucial election law debate, since he has rushed to the side of a sick relative in France, Son Chhay said.

 

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