An angry National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh led a vote Friday to ban opposition parliamentarian Son Chhay from attending the next 15 assembly sessions after Son Chhay criticized the Prince earlier in the day for not sitting in the president’s chair while parliament is in session.
Prince Ranariddh said he “suffered” from Son Chhay’s verbal “attack,” and asked members of the assembly’s permanent committee to decide on how to discipline Son Chhay.
“Son Chhay has contempt for me. He said the National Assembly is not in order,” Prince Ranariddh said.
The suspension marks the second day in a row in which Prince Ranariddh and Son Chhay have clashed during an assembly session. On Thursday, the pair traded remarks after Son Chhay criticized the Prince for endorsing the opposition parliamentarian’s removal as commission chairman.
Early in Friday’s morning session, Son Chhay told the assembly he was confused about who he should pay his respects to when speaking, since Prince Ranariddh was not in the president’s chair, where he normally presides over the assembly.
The Prince later said he had an appointment to meet guests and had designated an interim president to administer parliament. When the prince returned to the assembly, he sat in another chair near the president’s chair.
Prince Ranariddh was later told of Son Chhay’s criticism by his aides and ordered the disciplinary measure.
“It was my duty to speak,” Son Chhay said after the vote to suspend him. “I have the aim to strengthen our National Assembly. I only said that to bring some order and respect to the National Assembly’s internal discipline.”
The permanent committee, made up of top assembly leaders and the nine commission chairmen, voted to suspend Son Chhay and fine him half of his salary for two months. The assembly later approved the measure, with 81 of 91 parliamentarians supporting the suspension and fine.
Ten Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians voted against the suspension.
Before the vote, several Funcinpec parliamentarians rose to offer strong words against Son Chhay. CPP assembly members, however, remained silent.
“I can’t accept this. It is injustice. It is oppression onto the small party and an effort to eliminate the small party’s voice,” Son Chhay said.
In September, Son Chhay was removed as head of the commerce, transport and telecommunications commission. He was the only Sam Rainsy Party member to chair a commission. Six of the nine commission members voted to oust him, saying he had failed to keep them or the assembly’s leadership informed. Son Chhay contends he was removed for exposing corruption.
“If you want to better lead the legislature, you have to listen to reasons offered by both sides,” Son Chhay told Prince Ranariddh on Thursday during a debate on a trademark bill.
A visibly angry Prince Ranariddh told Son Chhay to stop raising the issue of his removal as commission chairman.