Tempers flared and barbs were exchanged in the National Assembly this week as parliamentarian Son Chhay argued again that he has been illegally replaced as commission chairman.
In unusually pointed remarks, Son Chhay criticized National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh for endorsing his removal.
“If you want to better lead the legislature, you have to listen to the reasons offered by both sides. But the legislature has only heard one side now,” he said as the prince presided over a debate on a trademark bill.
The prince, visibly irritated, told Son Chhay to “stop raising this issue before the legislature, because it is over.”
The prince said he has the right to stop legislators from speaking about matters unrelated to the scheduled topic.
Son Chhay, the only Sam Rainsy Party member to chair one of the assembly’s nine commissions, was removed in September as head of the commerce, transport, and telecommunications commission. Six of the nine commission members voted him out, saying he failed to keep them or the assembly’s leadership properly informed.
Son Chhay contends he was ousted for exposing corruption, from the $2,500 monthly salary paid by MobiTel to Minister of Post and Telecommunications So Khun to no-bid deals at the Pochentong and Siem Reap airports. The opposition party has urged Ranariddh to reinstate Son Chhay, noting that a 1997 agreement endorsed by King Norodom Sihanouk stated that the Sam Rainsy Party would head one commission.
Son Chhay was replaced by Funcinpec lawmaker Kim San in a unanimous vote by the commission’s Funcinpec and CPP members. No Sam Rainsy Party members voted.
Son Chhay noted that in 1997, when CPP members similarly removed two outspoken Funcinpec commission heads, then-Assembly Deputy President Loy Sim Chheang overruled the move, saying the removals were “illegal” and the commission chairmen’s five-year terms must not be abused.
Prince Ranariddh was unmoved. “I don’t know what Loy Sim Chheang did. There was no report about that,” he said.
Opposition member Sam Sundoeun questioned how that could be possible.
“It’s not right that the record of the leader of the parliament can’t be found in the record file,” he said. “The letter has the exact date on it. Why can’t we find it?”
Funcinpec lawmaker Sok San defended Ranariddh. “You have to respect democracy,” he told Sun Chhay. “If a majority [ousted you], don’t be clinging to power.”