National Assembly Meets, Discusses Road Law

The CPP-only National Assembly sat for the second day of its second plenary session since last year’s disputed national election. With a razor thin majority in attendance, members of the CPP bloc discussed a new roads law.

Of the CPP’s 68-member bloc, 64 attended—just over the 62 needed for a majority in the Assembly. The 55 seats reserved for CNRP members-elect remained empty as the nation’s main opposition party boycotted the session.

Nin Saphon, chairman of the National Assembly’s committee on public works, transportation and telecommunications, explained that the new roads law, if passed by the ruling party lawmakers, would help ensure the lasting usability of the nation’s perennially damaged roads.

“The objective of the law is to prevent and to take legal action against…offenses occurring on our road infrastructure, including overloaded transportation and sub-par construction quality,” she said.

Discussion over the draft law lasted all morning, and focused on damaged roads.

Cheam Yeap, a lawmaker and spokesman for the ruling party, took the opportunity to request that Tram Iv Tek, the minister for public works and transportation, ensure that roads are in good shape.

“We face a lot of obstacles and dangers, so the important thing is that we would like to request his excellency the minister, as representative of the government, to recheck the quality of each road,” Mr. Yeap said.

Article 46 of the draft law says transport officials will have the duty to regularly check roads for damage. They will also have the power to demand documents from companies that supply road building materials.

Officials will also have the power to pull licenses from private firms found to be using substandard materials, the draft law says.

Chheang Vun, a senior ruling lawmaker party, said the new measures will be meaningless if the people charged with enforcing them collude with suppliers and highway construction companies.

“In the past, there have been practices such as this, and the roads have been damaged by this,” he said, referring to the cost of corruption. “How can we solve this problem? What has the ministry done so far to cope with this problem?”

Mr. Iv Tek said he is aware of problems within his ministry. But he said his officials are now aware of the prosecutorial power of the Anti-Corruption Unit. But since the Unit’s formation in 2010, it has prosecuted only a handful of cases.

“I’ve instructed them that the ACU will punish us if we make mistakes,” he said. “So everything must be done by the state’s principles.”

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