Prince: Missing Funcinpec Members Sick

Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh on Tuesday downplayed the continuing boycott of the National Assembly by lawmakers, including some from his party, rejecting the idea that the parliament is in crisis.

Speaking on the floor of the Assembly, Prince Ranariddh—who is also the Assembly’s president—dismissed lawmakers’ claims that a boycott was taking place. The prince said most of the absent lawmakers were merely “ill or on a leave of absence.”

For the third straight day Tuesday, the Assembly did not meet for lack of a quorum. All 15 Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers and at least 15 Funcinpec parliamentarians say they are boycotting in protest of last Thursday’s vote against RCAF Deputy Com­mander in Chief Khan Savoeun to become co-minister of Interior.

“I would like to clarify that the Funcinpec party doesn’t really have any procedure for any sort of so-called boycott,” the prince said. “But most Funcinpec lawmakers are actually just sick.”

One Funcinpec lawmaker said the prince was making excuses to avoid facing facts. His colleagues, the lawmaker said, are not physically ill, but “sick at heart.”

After opening the Assembly, Prince Ranariddh waited for an hour before acknowledging the session could not be held.

Other Assembly leaders were seen telephoning absent lawmakers—even those who had been given leaves of absence for medical or other reasons—and pleading with them to attend.

Two showed up an hour late—Funcinpec’s Ismael Yosof and the CPP’s Math Ly, who suffers from high blood pressure and looked decidedly frail when he arrived. But that left the Assembly with just 80 of its 122 members, six short of a quorum.

The Assembly was scheduled to begin its three-month recess today, but Prince Ranariddh said the session would be extended to finish pending legislation.

When the boycott began the Assembly was in the middle of discussing social security legislation, which would give workers retirement and other benefits. In ad­dition, the Assembly must pass legislation reforming the National Election Committee before it breaks. The bill must be ap­proved by Aug 27—11 months be­fore next year’s national elections, the prince said.

Prince Ranariddh ordered the Assembly’s secretariat to take action, following the Assembly’s internal rules, against lawmakers who are “absent for no reason.” While some self-proclaimed Fun­cinpec boycotters have se­cured Assembly permission not to at­tend, none of the opposition absentees have done so.

Some Funcinpec senators have also been boycotting, leading to canceled Senate sessions as well.

“This is a warning to the CPP, our partner in the coalition government,” Senator Khem Sokha said. “Our boycott will push the CPP and Funcinpec to the table to negotiate this issue.”(Addit­ional reporting by Thet Sambath)

Another Funcinpec senator, Sabu Bacha, said, “This is a warning to the CPP…. We are boycotting because CPP members of the National Assembly did not vote for General Khan Savoeun, and this affects our party’s reputation.”

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