PM Agrees To Appear In Assembly

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday offered to appear before a future National Assembly for weekly questioning by members of parliament—something that he has never done before.

In recent negotiations between the CPP and Funcinpec over the formation of a new government, royalist officials have demanded that Hun Sen show up at the Assembly each month to answer questions on government activities.

Explaining his decision, Hun Sen said he didn’t appear before the Assembly in the past because parliament leaders never invited him.

“A lot of people are confused that Prime Minister Hun Sen never answers to the National Assembly, but the fact is the National Assembly never invited me,” Hun Sen said during a visit to Sihanoukville, broadcast on Apsara Television.

“Right now, they want monthly [appearances before the Assem­bly] but [I prefer] weekly,” he said.

His announcement was lauded by some opposition party officials.

“I’m very happy to hear that,” Sam Rainsy Party Senator

Ou Bunlong said Sunday. “We

don’t want to blame him. We just want to push a little bit, that’s all.”

Opposition lawmaker Keo Remy also expressed his approval.

But to say the prime minister was never called to the Assembly is mistaken, Keo Remy said, adding that he had directly summoned Hun Sen to the Assembly in 2002 over questions about border encroachment by neighboring countries. Hun Sen did not heed the summons, Keo Remy said.

Under Article 96 of the Constitution, the prime minister must reply to parliamentarians’ questions in person if they submit a motion against government policy through the Assembly president.

Funcinpec spokesman Kassie Neou on Sunday declined to comment. Funcinpec’s Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh also declined to give immediate comment.

During his speech on Saturday, Hun Sen addressed several other demands put forth by Funcinpec for them to join another coalition with the CPP.

In response to the royalists’ call to raise civil servants’ minimum salaries from $30 to $100 a month, Hun Sen said the government could not afford it.

“If they think [to offer] $100 to the civil servants, what about the normal people? How can the people have bridges, food and schools?” he asked.

He also said Funcinpec’s proposal to lower gasoline prices was “unreasonable.”

Hun Sen warned against trying to sabotage the current government, which has been in a polictical deadlock for more than nine months.

“If you risk to sabotage against the government, we will arrest you,” he said, adding: “Who owns the prison? The government.”

In his speech, Hun Sen announced he will visit Laos later this month to build relations with that country.

Hun Sen will be there from May 10 to May 12 to meet Laos’ Prime Minister Bounhang Vorachith and President Khamtay Siphandone, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

(Additional reporting by Wency Leung)

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