After four days of discussion, the National Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed the long-awaited draft law on Combating Human Trafficking and Sexual Trade, with the debate intensifying on the final day.
National Assembly President Heng Samrin warned parliamentarians to stay on topic several times before resorting to turning off the Assembly’s sound system Thursday after SRP lawmaker Kim Suor Phirith refused to stop broaching the subject of the controversial Chai Hour II Hotel trafficking case from 2004, which ultimately led to the US State Department downgrading Cambodia in its annual global trafficking report and likely the sacking earlier this year of Appeal Court President Ly Vuochleng.
“You’re speaking off the topic,” Heng Samrin said to Kim Suor Phirith after cutting him off mid-sentence.
Unfazed, Kim Suor Phirith turned the sound system back on from where he was sitting and continued to discuss the case, accusing police of accepting bribes from human traffickers.
The review of the draft law’s 52 articles continued without debate after Heng Samrin once again turned off the sound system and announced that he would not allow any further discussion that did not directly relate to articles of the draft law.
Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana did briefly respond to Kim Suor Phirith’s accusation, saying that the investigation into the Chai Hour II case “is still ongoing.”
Despite the heated debate, all 85 lawmakers present voted in favor of the draft law, which would replace the 1996 law on human trafficking.
Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi wrote by e-mail Thursday that her ministry is satisfied with the passing of the draft law.
“There can be little doubt that this law is a huge improvement on the previous law,” she wrote.
(Additional reporting by James Welsh)