The National Assembly met quorum and convened an extraordinary session Monday to debate and pass an electricity law that Prime Minister Hun Sen had lobbied for—thanks to the presence of renegade Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Khem Veasna.
Hun Sen had pushed for the law to be passed before he leaves for China on July 3 to sign an agreement with regional leaders on trading electricity across national borders.
Even officials who usually say they are too busy to attend Assembly session were on hand.
Deputy Prime Minister Sok An also made an appearance, albeit 10 minutes late.
But it was Khem Veasna’s break with the opposition party’s boycott of the Assembly that carried the day.
The Assembly has often had difficulty meeting its quorum of 87 since the opposition began boycotting meetings to protest three of their lawmakers being stripped of their parliamentary immunity.
After less than two hours of debate, the electricity bill was passed with 87 of 88 votes—Khem Veasna abstaining.
Bills without such explicit backing by the prime minister often take much longer to pass. The anti-corruption law, for example, is taking years to wind its way through the National Assembly.
Khem Veasna insisted that he had not made the appearance for political reasons and that he was not selling out his party or helping the CPP.
“It is coincidence,” he said of his timely appearance. “I was not bought or called to fill the quorum.”
Khem Veasna also took the opportunity to blast the Assembly for being a rubber-stamp body. “Whatever the government says is necessary, the assembly agrees,” he said.
And when Funcinpec Parliamentarian Ly Touch asked Khem Veasna to “beg pardon” for his recently harsh words against monarchs and royal families, Khem Veasna again claimed that he had been misquoted.
“It is a strong man’s game,” he said of Cambodian politics. “Let them slander me as they will.”
Eng Chhay Eang, secretary general of the Sam Rainsy Party, said Monday it was Khem Veasna’s right to attend Assembly sessions even if it contradicted party policy.
He said the party would discuss the rebellious lawmaker’s fate when opposition Deputy President Kong Kor returns from abroad.