Keat Chhon, Opposition Lawmakers Trade Jabs

Finance Minister Keat Chhon on Tuesday launched an attack on opposition parliamentarians during an insurance law debate, accusing the latter of blindly blocking all lawmaking.

He made his accusation in the National Assembly just after Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay downplayed the urgency of passing the insurance law, saying he doubted it could decrease corruption.

“You’re always defiant and opposing strongly the proposed legislations of the government,” Keat Chhon told Son Chhay, adding that the opposition also sometimes criticizes bills it has supported in the past.

Keat Chhon also said opposition lawmakers’ criticisms are unfriendly and not helpful to the Assembly’s efforts to make laws.

Son Chhay was expressing his concerns about the possibilities for corruption built into the proposed seven-chapter, 57-article insurance law. “Most people don’t have confidence yet in our banking system,” Son Chhay said. “So I think that the insurance law won’t help small people and businessmen, but put more burden on them.”

All vehicle owners would be required to buy insurance under the new law. Son Chhay said this would affect poor motorcycle taxi drivers while increasing the bribery possibilities for government officials.

Son Chhay reminded Keat Chhon that Prime Minister Hun Sen recently called the Ministry of Finance “the most corrupt ministry” and questioned whether Keat Chhon was capable of running the department.

“You’re good at accusing the opposition of stirring up trouble,” Son Chhay told Keat Chhon. “But we just protect people. Our questioning is very constructive. No election is there in the next few days for me to win. We bear responsibility together.”

Keat Chhon acknowledged the corruption in his ministry and thanked Hun Sen for his comment. “We don’t avoid the problems,” he said. “The prime minister gave us the sword to clear out corruption. I’m not clinging to this post. It’s not eternal for me. It’s up to the parliament to make a decision on [me].”

Another Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, Sum Kim Hun, called on his colleagues from all three parties to stop treating each other based on what party they belong.

“Stop treating it as this party and that party during the parliamentary debate,” he said. “We are all working for the nation here. If we say the parliament is CPP, Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party, we keep arguing with each other.”

National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh agreed. “For my Funcinpec Party, I told lawmakers not to say they are from my party.” But he added lawmakers want to show which party they belong and share thoughts on the nation.

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