Parliament Likely To Close Early: Official

The National Assembly on Tuesday welcomed a handful of new Funcinpec and SRP lawmakers to replace those that defected to the ruling CPP in recent weeks. The new lawmakers joined the parliament in what will likely be one of its last plenary sessions before the July elections, according to an As­sembly official.

National Assembly Deputy Sec­retary-General Hul Buntha said by telephone Tuesday that Assem­bly Pre­sident Heng Samrin had an­nounced during a permanent com­mit­tee meeting last week that by early April the Assembly would shut its doors until after the election.

The idea is to give lawmakers an op­portunity to campaign ahead of the July 27 national election.

But Hul Buntha said that a lack of draft laws waiting for passage at the Assembly could mean it shuts up shop even sooner.

“There are no laws pending at the National Assembly right now,” he said, adding that the only legislation left to potentially vote on is the draft law on demonstrations, which the Assembly recently sent back to the Interior Ministry for revisions.

Government spokesman and In­for­mation Minister Khieu Kan­har­ith said that there are at least 10 draft laws with the government currently, but he did not indicate how many might be close to being sent to the Assembly.

The right to close the National Assembly lay with the Assembly itself, he added.

Heng Samrin could not be reached for comment.

SRP President Sam Rainsy said by telephone that even if the government does not intend to submit more laws to the Assembly before the mandate’s end, the legislature should not be shuttered in April.

He said that there are several op­position-drafted pieces of legislation that are waiting to be reviewed by the Assembly’s permanent committee; he added that it was essential for the Assembly to remain op­en to keep checks on the government.

“The National Assembly should not close by that month [April],” he said. “If the Assembly closes it will not be performing its duty.”

Joining the Assem­bly on Tuesday were four new SRP lawmakers—Vann Dara of Kampot, Pot Pov of Kandal, Nuon Vuthy of Kom­­pong Cham and Keth Khy of Kom­pong Thom—and three new Fun­cin­pec lawmakers—Kuch Chan­tha of Prey Veng, Heng Bol of Siem Reap and Pol Meng Hour of Svay Rieng.

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