After two mornings of heated debate, lawmakers at the National Assembly on Tuesday passed a controversial provision that would allow government officials to approve the import of non-commercial goods.
The amendment is part of the new Law on Quality of Goods and Services, which has been debated in parliament for weeks. The new provision would pave the way for government ministries to grant a special permit for goods like food and medicine not for sale upon arrival here.
In a rare show of solidarity, members of the Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy parties—one a coalition partner and the other the opposition—criticized the amendment, saying it would open the door for government corruption.
Funcinpec lawmaker Ismael Yusof demanded the article clarify what type of goods should be permitted to enter the country.
In a post-debate vote, only 57 of 100 MPs voted in favor—not enough for passage.
“With no clear provision in the law, some government officials could be corrupt by allowing goods” that could be harmful to people, such as weapons.
A vote was taken after the debate, but only 57 of 100 MPs voted in favor of the provision—which is not enough for passage.
In response to the impasse, National Assembly acting speaker Heng Samrin (CPP) appointed a special committee of 15 lawmakers, including opposition leader Sam Rainsy and co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh, to rewrite the provision.
After a one-hour meeting, they agreed to clarify the law and included the word “humanitarian” to describe the type of goods that could be approved for entry. The new wording also assured that a special permit would be issued only if the goods conform with international trade laws.
The new provision was approved by a vote of 96-3.
Meanwhile, Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Sam Sundoeun accused Heng Samrin of being biased toward the CPP and of ignoring the voice of the opposition.
But Heng Samrin defended himself: “I have the right to determine who speaks first or after. I am neutral. I let you go one by one. If you have a new idea about lawmaking, you can speak.”