Debate on long-awaited legislation to end illegal logging in Cambodia ground to a halt for the ninth time in four weeks on Friday after Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers walked out of parliament
The departure of the 11 opposition legislators was blasted as an “illegal act” by National Assembly Vice-Chairman Heng Samrin, who was forced to call a halt to proceedings.
Leading the mass departure from the assembly, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said his party was prevented from speaking or questioning the forestry legislation.
The forestry law has been repeatedly stymied by absent lawmaker and walk-outs leading to the assembly’s failure to reach the necessary quorum of 86 members to debate legislation.
Environmentalists and opposition party members say the law does not adequately address measures to end illegal logging. They want the law scrapped and new legislation drafted.
“We walked out because Mr Heng Samrin did not let us speak, [he] over-looked us,” Sam Rainsy said.
Sam Rainsy said at a press conference later the law was full of loop-holes that allowed corruption to continue in the forestry sector.
“Though we are small, the [CPP] needs us for a quorum. They must allow us our right to take the floor. We will not just sit and endorse,” he said.
Two provisions in the law—a demand that all newly-weds in Cambodia plants two trees and the formation of a Forest Development Fund—drew sharp debate from members of the ruling CPP, as well as Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party.
Funcinpec parliamentarian Phan Chantha said forcing people to plant trees before they will be granted a wedding certificate violates their rights to marry.
“It is a violation of a new couple,” Phan Chantha told the assembly.
Funcinpec parliamentarian Nan Sy called for the article to be struck from the law.
The establishment of a Forest Development Fund managed by a forestry development committee but headed by the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Finance was blasted for including too many officials in the decision-making process.
Opposition lawmaker Lim Sokun said too many officials would encourage corruption in the fund. Agriculture Ministry Secretary of State Chan Tong Yves said more officials being involved in the process would boost transparency.