Protesting Opposition Members Face Fines With Fines

National Assembly First Dep­uty Chair Heng Samrin threatened opposition lawmakers with pay cuts after they walked out of Mon­day’s legislative session, forcing debate on the draft forestry law to be halted again.

Heng Samrin ordered the walkout be recorded in the Assem­bly’s official log, and said if Sam Rainsy Party members “keep de­fying the law,” the matter will be brought before the Assembly’s Permanent Committee.

“Rainsy and his group have made many mistakes recently,” Heng Samrin told reporters after Monday’s session.

He said future in­cidents could result in Sam Rainsy Party members being suspended. “If you walk away without permission, you will be suspended,” he said.

Op­position members accused Heng Samrin of ignoring their  requests to address the Assem­bly during debate on a chapter of the draft forestry law that deals with penalties for forest crimes.

“We are not happy with Heng Samrin. He only allowed one of us to speak…this is limiting our abil­ity to express ourselves,” Sam Rain­sy lawmaker Kim Suor Phi­rith said.

“We speak out in order to see that this law is better en­forced,” Kim Suor Phirith added.

Heng Samrin said last week he changed Assembly procedure to allow only one member from each party to speak in turn in an attempt to minimize what he feels are the verbal ambushes that have frequently characterized opposition debate.

“We want to have a balance of expressions from the political parties,” he said at the time.

Sam Rainsy has repeatedly ex­pressed displeasure with Assem­bly proceedings by leaving the debate, oftentimes ending the session for lack of quorum.

In the past, some lawmakers have viewed the walkouts as a minor annoyance. But the walkouts, along with ab­sences by other lawmakers this month, has meant canceling sessions for lack of quorum at least a dozen times and stalling debate on the draft forestry legislation.

(Additional reporting by Seth Meixner)




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