The opposition Sam Rainsy Party made its first move as the government watchdog in the new parliament Monday, demanding the government provide concrete answers to questions on forestry.
The party’s 15 parliamentarians have submitted four questions to Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh as a constitutional right to question government policy.
They are: How many millions of hectares of Cambodian forest have been destroyed since 1993, why the government has not made public all logging contracts it signs with private companies, how much money the government collects from these contracts and whether government officials engaging in illegal logging will be prosecuted.
Through its questioning, the opposition party is developing its role as “a check on government behavior,” Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay said.
The party hopes to make government actions more transparent by forcing the administration to provide information when asked for it.
However, the ambiguity of constitutional law and the lack of enforcement makes it unclear just what the response to the queries will be.
For example, while the Constitution specifies that the Assembly must hold a weekly question-and-answer session on government activities, Son Chhay said the previous government never made an attempt to hold such sessions.
Under Article 96 of the Constitution, the government must respond to queries in seven days.
If the government does not reply, Son Chhay said, the Sam Rainsy Party will resort to Article 89, which will allow the party to “invite a high-ranking official to clarify an important issue.” If the party is still not satisfied, it can bring the matter before the Constitutional Council.
If none of those avenues work, Son Chhay said the party will “just have to keep complaining.”
Parliament officials could not be reached for comment Monday.