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)