Ing Kieth Says Assembly to Convene

Statement Follows Hun Sen Pressure

National Assembly dean Ing Kieth said Friday afternoon that he will convene the first gathering of the Assembly on Wed­nesday, as senior government officials accused the opposition of prolonging the political deadlock.

But Ing Kieth, who is also de­puty prime minister, did not say whether this decision was in re­sponse to a warning earlier Fri­day from Second Prime Minister Hun Sen to call the meeting or step aside as Assembly dean.

The Assembly members were sworn in last week, but the body has yet to meet. Because a new Assembly president has not been chosen, it is up to the oldest member, Funcinpec’s Ing Kieth, to convene the meeting.

At the Friday morning Council of Ministers meeting, where an extradition treaty with Thailand was approved, Hun Sen warned Ing Kieth to either call the gathering or relinquish the dean’s job to Justice Minister Chem Sgnoun, a CPP member and second oldest member of the Assembly.

Co-minister of the Council of Ministers Sok An, a senior CPP official, also blasted the opposition. “We insist and push for the opening of parliament, so the parliament will have its infrastructure in place and we can form a new government,” he told re­porters after the meeting. “But now, the obstacle is that the opposition parties do not want to move forward on the procedures for Parliament and a new government.”

Ing Kieth, a Funcinpec steering committee member, said later by telephone he decided to call the meeting for Wednesday “to show people there is no deadlock.”

With a Wednesday meeting, he added, he can see what emer­ges from Monday’s inter-party talks, where the Assembly presidency is an expected topic.

At the start of Friday’s Council of Min­isters meeting—the first since the new Assembly members were sworn in—Hun Sen reiterated that until a new government is formed, the current government will continue as usual.

“The existing government will continue working as long as no new government replaces it,” he told Cabinet members. “We will continue our work for one year or five years if there is no new government.”

The Cabinet approved an extradition treaty with Thailand. But officials downplayed whether the government would use the treaty to attempt to bring back royalist generals Nhiek Bun Chhay or Serey Kosal to serve jail terms.

Information Ministry Cabinet Director Sieng Lapresse said Friday the Cabinet did not discuss Nhiek Bun Chhay or anyone who may be extradited un­der the treaty. “The law applies to anyone, not any particular person,” he said.

Nhiek Bun Chhay and Serey Kosal were both convicted in absentia in mid-March to serve 20 years in prison for their roles in an alleged conspiracy.

Earlier this year, Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Sukhumbhand Paribatra said Thailand wanted to guarantee Nhiek Bun Chhay’s safety. The treaty, signed in May, enables the signatories to not return criminals if the country believes the convictions are political. The National Assembly must approve the treaty.

Sok An said the Cabinet also approved a global non-proliferation treaty on chemical weapons, and reviewed a report on government activities from 1993 to 1998, to be published as a book.

(Ad­ditional reporting by Lor Chan­dara and Debra Boyce)


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