Rebel SRP Member Breaks Assembly Boycott

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.

 

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