Son Chhay, the only opposition party parliamentarian to head a National Assembly commission, said Wednesday he has been summoned to a meeting today at which he claims he will be fired.
He says leaders of the ruling CPP and Funcinpec have agreed to seek his ouster.
“They think I have caused too much trouble” publicizing top officials’ allegedly questionable business deals and shady contracts, he said. “They are going to do it [today].”
Kol Pheng, secretary-general of the National Assembly and a Funcinpec member, said it isn’t the top leadership who wants Son Chhay out, but the members of his own commission.
“The commission has the right to choose a new chairman,” he said, adding that a majority of members indicated last week that they plan to do so. “This was not a proposal from Prime Minister Hun Sen.”
Western diplomats greeted the news with concern, but said it is an internal matter for the National Assembly to decide.
Canadian Ambassador Normand Mailhot said Son Chhay is an effective and outspoken legislator “and I would be very sad if he were gagged or his effectiveness reduced.”
US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann said he hopes that any changes are made democratically and “the Sam Rainsy Party would continue to have fair representation.”
The Commission on Public Works, Transport, Industry and Telecommunications—one of the Assembly’s nine commissions—is the only one headed by a member of the Sam Rainsy Party, which holds 15 of the National Assembly’s 122 seats.
The commission is comprised of nine members, three from the CPP, three from Funcinpec, and three from the Sam Rainsy Party. Six members—none from the opposition—signed the letter indicating they want a new chairman.
Son Chhay has not ducked controversy during his tenure. Last March, he summoned So Khun, minister of Posts and Telecommunications, to tell the commission why he receives a $2,500 per month salary from MobiTel, the dominant mobile phone company in Cambodia—which is overseen by his ministry.
Son Chhay also wrote to the Swedish Parliament, describing the situation and suggesting MobiTel’s practices be examined. Millicom International, the Sweden-based parent company of MobiTel, summoned Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng to Sweden in March.
In April, Son Chhay and other members of the Assembly asked Hun Sen to cancel a 35-year contract with the AZ Distribution Co, which was granted, without public bid, permission to charge tolls on the US-built National Route 4 in exchange for maintaining it.
Son Chhay has also questioned the lack of bidding in contracts given to a French company for renovations at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports, and whether Cambodia is strict enough in registering foreign vessels.
He said Wednesday that he will continue agitating for clean government and accountability as a parliamentarian.
The Sam Rainsy Party is concerned that Son Chhay will also be removed from the assembly’s powerful Standing Committee, on which he serves automatically as head of an Assembly commission.
“Without any representative from the opposition,” the party said in a statement, “the Cambodian Peoples’ Party will be able to do whatever it wants with Cambodia’s rubber-stamp parliament.”