Ranariddh Accuses SRP of Impeding Democracy Back

National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh on Wed­­­nesday blamed the Sam Rainsy Party for setting back the cause of democracy in Cambodia by re­moving a dissident lawmaker from his position and for boycotting the As­sembly.

SRP Secretary-General Eng Ch­hay Eang on Thursday defended the party’s actions, but some ob­servers suggest the opposition has done itself no favors by ousting outspoken lawmaker Khem Veasna.

Eng Chhay Eang said firing Khem Veasna was no setback for democracy because a majority of the opposition’s steering committee supported the move. He added that the party was hardly setting a precedent: Funcinpec in 1994 ousted Sam Rainsy, and the CPP in 2003 ousted three of its own lawmakers.

“He can form a party reflecting his ideas,” Eng Chhay Eang said of Khem Veasna.

According to the National Election Committee, election law states that lawmakers must belong to a party to hold office. If a lawmaker is removed from his or her par­ty, he or she is effectively re­moved from office.

The opposition has responded to critics by saying the law remov­ed Khem Veasna. But to Thun Sa­ray, president of Adhoc, that defen­se rang hollow. “We should re­move this kind of law,” he said. “It is not true to the spirit of the Constitution.”

Thun Saray said he feared the move could have a chilling effect on freedom of speech in Cambodia, especially because the opposition has traditionally set a good ex­ample of democratic governance.

“If MPs cannot express their opinions freely,” he said, “how can other people?”

Heav Veasna, managing director of the Center for Social Development, said the move could make the opposition party more vulnerable to criticism from other parties that it is undemocratic, even if the criticism is not well-founded.

But Chea Mony, Free Trade Un­ion leader, said the lawmaker’s oust­ing was a minor infraction com­pared to other setbacks to de­mo­cracy that Cambodia’s suffered. “Since CPP and Funcinpec merged, democracy has vanished,” he said, citing bans on worker protests, land grabs and violence against labor leaders.


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