Ruling party lawmakers removed deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha as first vice president of the National Assembly on Friday morning in a legally dubious vote that was boycotted by the CNRP.
In a morning session that came four days after a CPP-led youth group protested in front of the parliament demanding that Mr. Sokha step down, all 68 CPP lawmakers voted to remove Mr. Sokha from his position in the National Assembly.
“In accordance with votes cast to remove His Excellency Kem Sokha from the first vice presidency of the National Assembly, I announce solemnly that His Excellency Kem Sokha is successfully removed from his position as first vice president of the National Assembly,” Assembly President Heng Samrin told parliament at about 9 a.m.
All 55 of the opposition party’s lawmakers boycotted the morning session.
During the protest against Mr. Sokha on Monday, two opposition lawmakers were dragged from their SUVs and beaten as they tried to leave the National Assembly, leading to an outcry among civil society groups that said the ruling party was behind the attacks.
Prime Minister Hun Sen had personally promoted Monday’s protest against Mr. Sokha in a speech on Sunday night, but during a televised address on Wednesday night he condemned the attacks.
The injured CNRP lawmakers, Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea, are recovering in a Thai hospital with severe injuries to their heads.
During Friday’s session of parliament, lawmakers from both the CPP and CNRP were expected to debate and pass changes to the internal rules of the National Assembly and a new commune election law. However, the CPP-dominated permanent committee met in the morning to place a vote to remove Mr. Sokha on the agenda.
The Constitution only allows for the replacement of the National Assembly’s president and two vice presidents if they resign or die, with no law giving lawmakers the ability to remove a sitting parliamentary leader.
Yet the CPP has argued that because Mr. Sokha received his position thanks to the support of ruling party lawmakers, who hold a majority in the 123-seat parliament, they also have the right to remove him.
Opposition spokesman Yim Sovann could not be reached for comment.