SRP Admits 10 Approved Controversial Law

Sam Rainsy admitted Monday that 10 of his own lawmakers voted in favor of the controversial law passed by parliament last week to lim­it the free speech of its members, despite the Sam Rainsy Party hav­ing officially branded it as un­con­sti­tutional.

The controversy over the law, which passed Wednesday, cen­ters on a provision that makes it pos­sible to prosecute legislators who abuse “an individual’s dignity, pub­lic order, social customs or na­tion­al security.” The provision, in Art­icle 5 of the law, allows for law­makers to be de­tained immediately—without their immunity being stripped—for undefined “obvious crimes.”

Sam Rainsy claimed that the 10 SRP lawmakers who voted for the law did so due to undefined “inconsistency” and confusion. The party will not discipline them because their mistake to vote for the law was a “mistake in good faith,” he added.

SRP parliamentarian Eng Chhay Eng said he voted for the law even though he didn’t support Article 5. He added that other articles in the law, which gave lawmakers pensions and funeral expenses, were good. He also maintained that Art­icle 5 could be amended later.

SRP lawmaker Cheam Channy re­vealed Mon­day that he had vot­ed for the law in part because he hadn’t paid any serious attention to Article 5. He added that he ultimately decided to vote yes because he saw that other SRP members were voting in the law’s favor.

The official count of Wednes­day’s vote was 93 lawmakers for the law and one opposed to the law.

SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said he was the SRP’s no-voter. However, SRP lawmaker Keo Remy also main­tained that he was in fact the SRP’s only dissenter.

Cambodian Center for Human Rights Director Kem Sokha said the SRP lawmakers who voted for the law appeared to be more focus­ed on their own personal interests than in serving the country.

“They think of their benefits and not the people,” he said.

Senior CPP lawmaker Ek Sam Ol held a press conference at the Na­tional Assembly Monday morning to defend the passage of the law. “The lawmakers voted to support the law in a responsible manner and in the spirit of freedom,” Ek Sam Ol said, adding that the law was not designed to silence lawmakers.

“The law is a tool for the King­dom of Cambodia to protect the rights, freedom and immunity of law­makers,” he added. Ek Sam Ol, who is also CPP legislation chairman, said that comments by US Am­bas­sador Joseph Mussomeli, who last week said that the National Assembly had castrated itself with the legislation, were unacceptable.

US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said the ambassador stands by his comments.

Ek Sam Ol also noted that both Funcinpec and SRP lawmakers voted for the legislation.


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