The spokesman for the National Assembly once again invited members of the media and NGOs to parliament Friday to defend a controversial circular released last month by Assembly President Heng Samrin, insisting that the rules, which give Mr. Samrin broad powers to restrict access to the assembly compound, were necessary for the sake of security.
Non-governmental groups released a statement Thursday blasting the rules, saying that Mr. Samrin’s circular was meant to stifle opposition attempts to use their newfound powers in the National Assembly to engage outside experts in reform efforts.
But Chheang Vun, a CPP lawmaker and spokesman for the Assembly, vehemently disagreed at a press conference Friday.
“He [Mr. Samrin] is concerned about there being insecurity inside the National Assembly…so good security inside the National Assembly is the most important work to do,” Mr. Vun said.
Asked why such rules had not been put forth in the past, Mr. Vun said parliament had a recent influx of strangers passing through.
“In the past, we had no cases of people coming in and out of the National Assembly without permission,” he said.
“For the critics who state that Samdech President [Mr. Samrin] restricts freedom of civil society groups in entering in to the National Assembly, I absolutely deny it.”
Mr. Vun cited Article 87 of the Constitution, which says that Mr. Samrin must ensure that internal assembly rules are followed, and chapter 8 of those internal rules, which say the Assembly president is responsible for maintaining order inside parliament.
The Assembly spokesman also took the opportunity to directly respond to the civil society leaders who are calling for Mr. Samrin to rescind the rules, namely Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Election in Cambodia, and Ou Virak, chairman of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
“Civil society, do not forget, we are the 123 at the National Assembly who were elected lawmakers, with people voting for us to work and serve them. Citizens never said they voted for Koul Panha or Ou Virak and so on,” he said.
CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith said that Mr. Samrin had read the rules to the Assembly’s permanent committee during a meeting on September 11, and that CNRP committee members had asked to put the rules on an agenda for further discussion.
Instead, Mr. Samrin released the circular on the rules without any further consultation, he said.
“Lastly, he signed the circular without getting any opinion from us,” Mr. Ponhearith said.