Lawmakers Spar Over Right to Speak

CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun and CNRP lawmaker Un Sam An got into a heated back-and-forth following a meeting at the National Assembly on Wednesday, with Mr. Vun refusing to allow Mr. Sam An to speak to a reporter while inside parliament.

Mr. Vun, the spokesman for the National Assembly, began to spar with Mr. Sam An—who was standing next to him—while speaking to reporters after a meeting about the draft NGO law, threatening to have security guards intervene.

CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun, left, speaks to a Radio Free Asia reporter at the National Assembly on Wednesday as CNRP lawmaker Un Sam An looks on. (Ren Rortanak)
CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun, left, speaks to a Radio Free Asia reporter at the National Assembly on Wednesday as CNRP lawmaker Un Sam An looks on. (Ren Rortanak)

Pushing away a recorder being held by a Radio Free Asia reporter attempting to interview Mr. Sam An, Mr. Vun said: “I have already told you that he is not allowed to speak. He has to request permission first. Do you understand?”

Mr. Sam An demurred.

“I am a lawmaker who also has a right to speak,” he said.

“You have a right to speak, but not in the National Assembly,” Mr. Vun said.

“The people voted for me,” Mr. Sam An responded.

“So go to your constituency,” Mr. Vun said, adding that parliament has regulations barring press conferences without the permission of Assembly President Heng Samrin.

“In the National Assembly, there are rules. Call security for me, and ask them to go, go, go,” Mr. Vun said.

“This regulation is not in the internal rules,” Mr. Sam An retorted.

“This regulation is in the internal rules,” Mr. Vun said, “but you are ignorant.”

After about two minutes of recording the argument, the reporter gave up on interviewing Mr. Sam An and left, along with a number of other journalists recording the scene.

Contacted afterward, Mr. Sam An said that Mr. Vun’s attempt to prevent him from speaking at the National Assembly violated his constitutional rights as a lawmaker, and that the CNRP would protest.

“We plan to ask the permanent committee of the National Assembly to hold a meeting to blame His Excellency Chheang Vun for his mistake this morning and request that he apologize for looking down on and violating a lawmaker,” he said.

Mr. Vun could not be reached.

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