PM Vows Unconstitutional Block of Ministers’ Questioning

Following plans by opposition lawmakers to call the ministers of defense, agriculture and labor to be grilled at the National Assembly, Prime Minister Hun Sen reportedly vowed on Wednesday to block them from appearing—a move that would violate the Constitution.

Senior opposition lawmaker Son Chhay announced on Tuesday a plan to send letters to the ministers through National Assembly President Heng Samrin over the next two weeks. Among the issues on the table would be the promotion of three of Mr. Hun Sen’s bodyguards following their release from prison last year after savagely attacking two opposition lawmakers, which the CNRP wishes to discuss with Defense Minister Tea Banh.

cam photo hun sen channa KHMER
Prime Minister Hun Sen delivers a speech at his office building in Phnom Penh in May last year. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

However, in an article uploaded to government mouthpiece Fresh News on Wednesday, Mr. Hun Sen was quoted as saying that he would block any attempts to have the ministers questioned, citing the CNRP’s boycott of a vote on whether to amend an article in the National Assembly’s internal rules stripping the opposition of official “minority” status in parliament.

“I will not let [them] appear at the Assembly,” Mr. Hun Sen was quoted as saying about the ministers. “You must respect the law first. Come to the Assembly’s meeting first.”

“If you do not respect the law, how can they come to appear?” he continued, according to the article.

The CPP voted unanimously on Tuesday to change the internal rules to end the official majority and minority party designations, which were designed to give the CNRP a channel to make its voice heard through a “culture of dialogue.”

In the same session, Mr. Hun Sen went on a tirade against the opposition, threatening to have the courts seize exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s property, including the CNRP’s headquarters, and proposing a legal amendment that would ban the longtime opposition leader from political party leadership because he is a convicted criminal.

Contacted on Wednesday, CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang would not respond directly to the premier’s reported comments, but said the party intended to press ahead with plans to summon the ministers.

“We have not submitted the official letters yet, and what the prime minister said is also unofficial as he has not mentioned it in an official letter,” Mr. Chhay Eang said.

“We have plans to summon at least three ministers to appear at the National Assembly, according to the Constitution, for questioning on each of their sectors.”

Political analyst Meas Ny said he believed this was simply another example of the premier’s posturing in the run-up to commune elections in June.

“We know that it is barking season,” he said.

Regardless, Mr. Ny pointed out that blocking ministers from appearing at the National Assembly was a clear violation of the Constitution. Article 97 of the Constitution reads: “The Commissions of the National Assembly can invite any minister to give clarifications on issue relating to his/her responsibility.”

The CNRP heads five such commissions.

“The banning of ministers to appear is a serious violation of the Constitution because the National Assembly is an independent institution that is able to summon senior officials to the legislative​ institution,” Mr. Ny said.

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