Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay says he needs seven more signatures from fellow parliamentarians to begin a National Assembly debate on removing So Khun from his Minister of Posts and Telecommunications position.
Fifteen Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians, six Funcinpec lawmakers and two CPP National Assembly members have agreed to sign the proposed motion of censure, Son Chhay said Monday.
At least 30 signatures are needed to put forward a censure motion in the National Assembly, according to Article 98 of the Constitution. A two-thirds majority vote of parliamentarians is needed to pass such a motion, which would bring about the dismissal of a government official.
At a March 5 meeting of the National Assembly’s Commission on Telecommunications, So Khun said he receives a $2,500 monthly salary as an honorary adviser to Mobitel, the dominant mobile phone company in Cambodia. He said the salary does not conflict with his work as minister, in which he establishes policies for all private telecommunications operators, including Mobitel.
The admission prompted Son Chhay, who is chairman of the the commission, to send a letter Monday to Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh. A copy of the letter was also sent to all 122 members of the assembly.
“If the National Assembly does not take action against Minister So Khun, then the National Assembly will mean nothing,” Son Chhay said. “I will keep pushing the National Assembly to take action against corrupt officials like So Khun.”
So Khun indicated Tuesday that he is not worried about the prospect of a debate in the assembly.
“I don’t think I’m going to take action against the National Assembly,” said So Khun. “I will only block [Son Chhay’s] attacks with counterattacks.”
He said he was unclear about how Hun Sen feels about the controversy.
“I saw the news in the local newspapers and also the letter that was sent to Hun Sen,” he said. “If the National Assembly calls me, I will go to answer.”
Funcinpec parliamentarian Sok San said he will sign the motion if the commission shows enough evidence that So Khun has done wrong.
“I know that Minister So Khun has confessed,” he said. “But I want to make sure there the evidence is there before the censure motion is proposed, since he is a government official. If there is no evidence, then the proposal could affect his honor.”
CPP lawmaker Ho Naun said she has not yet seen the letter, and wouldn’t comment further until after the next meeting of commission members.
Mobitel is a joint venture between Swedish Millicom International and Cambodia’s Royal Group, and now has services available in all provinces.
Son Chhay sent a letter in April to Swedish lawmakers about So Khun’s admission. Swedish lawmakers responded to Son Chhay, stating in a letter that they are looking into the company’s involvement in the scandal.
Son Chhay said he will call a commission meeting soon to discuss the motion. He said it is part of a parliamentarian’s job to investigate alleged corruption by government officials.
“I don’t do this on behalf of my party. I just want to do my job as a parliamentarian,” he said.
So Khun, a member of the CPP, has told National Assembly members that he receives the salary as part of his private work.
“It is my right,” he said at the March 5 meeting. “All work has to be paid for. As part of the ministry, I am not biased toward Mobitel.”
So Khun’s advisory role and special salary are not unusual in the government. At the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, many high-ranking officials hold advisory positions at all of the private phone companies, partly because the ministry holds shares in all those companies.
Parliamentarians have criticized Mobitel for paying salaries to government officials in policy-making positions. They said the payments allowed Mobitel to begin its Internet service TeleSurf without a specialized license required by the ministry. Mobitel officials have said they are legally operating TeleSurf.