National Assembly to Launch ‘Quick Reaction’ Press Team

The National Assembly’s permanent committee has agreed to create a Quick Reaction Team (QRT) and appoint a group of spokesmen to represent the parliamentary body and communicate with the media.

A statement released on Wednesday by the National Assembly said the QRT will be composed of five CPP parliamentarians, including chairman of the Assembly’s banking and finance committee Cheam Yeap.

A separate team of spokesmen will be comprised of three CPP lawmakers, including Chheang Vun, who in November came under fire for calling opposition parliamentarian Kem Sokha a “banong”—the name of an ethnic minority which is also used pejoratively to mean savage or uneducated. Mr. Vun has since apologized at the National Assembly for the insult.

The QRT will also include Pen Pagna, Mom Chimhuy, Sik Bunhok and Leng Penlong. Nhem Thavy and Sok Ey San will join Mr. Vun on the spokesmen unit.

Mr. Vun said he had yet to receive official appointment to his new role at the Assembly, but confirmed that the QRT would channel information to the media.

“The government has the minister of information as their spokesman and the Council of Ministers has their Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PQRU) and today, circumstances require us to create [our own press office] in order to provide enough and accurate information to people, especially to journalists” Mr. Vun said.

SRP spokesman and parliamentarian Yim Sovann said that the composition of the QRT would expose the bias of the information the body will distribute once it begins operating.

“This kind of creation shows that the National Assembly is a party assembly, not a national assembly, which is composed of many parties,” Mr. Sovann said, noting the lack of representation from his own party—which holds 26 of the body’s 123 seats—in the QRT.

“These teams are created just for CPP interest, not for the people’s interest,” he added.

The Council of Minister’s PQRU —a comparable office—has been an active voice for the government in recent years, occasionally excoriating critics of the ruling CPP.

For example, the day after independent radio station owner Mam Sonando was sentenced to 20 years in prison in October, PQRU spokesman Keo Remy held an impromptu press conference defending Prime Minister Hun Sen against unnamed critics.

“I would like to say the allegation that the prime minister has a lot of money because of corruption: It is a serious allegation,” Mr. Remy told reporters. “He has been prime minister for so long, but he only has two houses,” he added, referring to Mr. Hun Sen’s properties in Phnom Penh and Takhmao City.

The statement released by the National Assembly also stated that draft laws on fire-fighting and a government guarantee to pay for the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam have been sent to special committees before they are discussed on the floor of the National Assembly.

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