Prince: Absent Lawmakers To Face Pay Cuts

National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh on Tues­day threatened to punish all lawmakers who do not appear at regular parliamentary sessions, a move that would effectively penalize Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers for their current boycott of the As­sembly.

Addressing the parliament, Prince Ranariddh indicated that absent lawmakers would face a reduction in their salaries, according to an article in the Assembly’s internal regulations.

“Please write letters to inform lawmakers who are absent about [the punishment outlined in] Ar­ticle 70,” Prince Ranariddh said.

The article states that the As­sembly must deduct—according to the number of days they do not show up—the salaries of lawmakers who are absent for more than three days.

Since parliamentarians earn about $2,000 per month from the Assembly, including expenses, those absent would see their monthly payments deducted by roughly $67 per day.

If enforced, the article would target the Sam Rainsy Party’s 24 lawmakers, who have boycotted the sessions since the Assembly voted to strip opposition leader Sam Rainsy and two other opposition lawmakers, Cheam Channy and Chea Poch, of their parliamentary immunity on Feb 3.

Sam Rainsy and Chea Poch stand accused of defaming Prince Ranariddh for alleging he took bribes, while Cheam Channy was arrested and charged by the Military Court for organizing an illegal armed force. The party said Sam Rainsy was in Britain on Tuesday, while Chea Poch is in an undisclosed country.

The opposition party has stated that it wants the ruling parties to drop their cases against the three lawmakers and for the Assembly to restore their immunity.

“We don’t want to avoid going to the National Assembly sessions, but this is our form of expression,” Eng Chhay Eang, parliamentarian and secretary-general for the Sam Rainsy Party, said Tuesday. “We boycott because we want to find a solution [to the immunity issue].”

He added: “If Prince Ranariddh really reduces our salary, it means this really is a communist government.”

Since the CPP and Funcinpec formed their coalition government in July 2004, the opposition party has had a limited role in the Assembly. The party was granted no positions in the Assembly’s permanent committee, preventing it from being involved in the process of amending laws.

Countering the allegations against Cheam Channy, three opposition lawmakers on Tues­day filed a complaint to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, accusing military court prosecutor Prum Sornthun and investigating Judge Pok Pon of detaining their colleague illegally.

According to a copy of the complaint, lawmakers Sok Pheng, Chhrea Sochenda and Kuoy Bunroeurn said the military court should not be involved in Cheam Channy’s case, since he is a civilian.

“We want the Municipal Court to charge Prum Sornthun and Pok Pon of illegal detention and abusing human rights,” the complaint read.

Contacted Tuesday, Pok Pon said he complied with the law.

“I did not detain [Cheam Chan­ny] in my house, so why do they accuse me of illegal detention?” he asked.

At the Assembly Tuesday, lawmakers finally approved the national budget summary for 2001, three years after it was due, allowing the Ministry of Finance to proceed with an audit on government expenditures for that year.

Monh Saphan, head of the As­sembly’s Interior, National De­fense, Investigation and Anti-Cor­ruption committee, said Tuesday that the budget had been delayed “because we had many laws to approve.”

In 2001, the government generated $396 million in revenues and spent $426 million.


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