Several opposition lawmakers walked out of the National Assembly Friday during debate on a proposed insurance law, leaving the legislature short of the quorum needed to vote on the controversial law.
The debate became raucous after opposition party leader Sam Rainsy threatened to leave the assembly because the speaker was ignoring him.
National Assembly Second Vice President Nguon Nhel said he had called Sam Rainsy’s name for him to speak but he was not present.
Sam Rainsy arrived 15 minutes later. He said he was late because he was at a pagoda praying. “We as lawmakers have to remind ourselves of abiding by good morals as leaders and not stealing the state’s properties,” he said.
Sam Rainsy’s threat to walk out drew shouts from several CPP parliamentarians. After quieting the lawmakers, Nguon Nhel asked the opposition members not to walk out. But soon after, several Sam Rainsy parliamentarians left.
Debate on the insurance law will continue Tuesday.
Before Nguon Nhel closed Friday’s session, the National Assembly did pass chapter 7 of the new law, which will require construction companies starting in June 2001 to buy insurance before starting a project. All Cambodian businesses also will have to purchase insurance for their vehicles starting in December 2001.
Sam Rainsy called on the government also to require that businesses operating airplanes and boats be required to have insurance, citing the recent hijacking of a tour boat on the Tonle Sap river. Passengers were not reimbursed for stolen possessions because the company did not have insurance, Sam Rainsy said.
Opposition lawmakers have complained repeatedly that the insurance law will put a heavier burden on Cambodia’s poor.
Finance Minister Keat Chhon said the law will benefit Cambodians.“This will help us solve a lot of problems and ensure the safety of the people,” he said.