Lawmakers from the opposition SRP and Human Rights Party who were expelled from Parliament earlier this month have called on the foreign diplomatic corps and international donors to stop signing agreements and conducting other business with the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
In a letter written on National Assembly stationary, the parliamentarians argue that because 27 opposition lawmakers, and two Funcinpec members, were dismissed from the National Assembly on June 5, the current government is no longer constitutional.
“Subsequently the current Royal Government of Cambodia led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, which is formed by the current mandate of the NA [National Assembly], has also lost its legitimacy,” states the letter, which was released Thursday.
“All Embassies, Diplomatic Missions, and Multilateral Donors stationed in the Kingdom of Cambodia or stationed outside the Kingdom of Cambodia are advised to refrain from signing any agreement with the current Royal Government of Cambodia…until the new legitimate National Assembly is elected and a new Government is formed accordingly.”
The letter cites Article 76 of the Constitution, which, according to the letter, states, “the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia is legitimate if it is formed by at least 120 elected Parliamentarians.”
However, the actual wording of the Constitution states simply: “The National Assembly consists of at least 120 members.”
Due to the expulsion of the 29 lawmakers, there are currently just 93 lawmakers that make up the National Assembly.
SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said the letter was sent out Thursday afternoon, and had not yet received any replies from embassies or donors, but hoped that over the next two days they would receive official support from recipients of the letter.
John Simmons, deputy spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, reiterated the position of the U.S. State Department, laid out in an official statement earlier this month, that regardless of the constitutionality of the National Assembly’s dismissal of the opposition lawmakers, the decision was undemocratic in principle.
“The legality of the opposition’s expulsion from the National Assembly is debatable. As we have stated, however, the decision starkly contradicts the spirit of a healthy democratic process, and the United States is concerned by the impact the action will have on the upcoming elections,” Mr. Simmons said in an email.
Pok Poun, press and information officer for the European Union’s delegation to Cambodia, said Thursday that the E.U. had not received a letter from the lawmakers.
The E.U. has declined to comment on the dismissal of opposition lawmakers since the decision was announced more than two weeks ago.
Nguon Nhel, CPP deputy president of the National Assembly, said that whether or not foreign governments respond to the opposition lawmaker’s call to deny the government’s legitimacy, the decision of the CPP-led permanent committee will stand.
“Any other countries cannot help [the opposition]. The constitutional laws and other laws are our country’s laws. The other countries have their own laws. They cannot take the law of one country and apply it to another,” Mr. Nhel said.
“Even though they [opposition lawmakers] asked the Constitutional Council to look into the constitutional law, and are collecting thumbprints [for petitions] and sending out diplomatic letters, it will not help,” he added.
Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said that while foreign governments and donors may not be able to intervene directly in the current situation, by speaking out against the dismissal, they would prevent setting a precedent in which the sitting government is free to oust parliamentarians as it pleases.
“I think we must clearly solve this problem, otherwise in the future, these bad practices will happen again where one party tries to control Parliament and kicks out other parliamentarians,” Mr. Panha said.
“I think Western democratic countries have come up with principles about what a liberal and pluralistic democracy is. In their country, can powerful people just kick out another party like this?” he asked.