SRP and Human Rights Party lawmakers said yesterday they would formally ask that debate on the draft anticorruption legislation be delayed for two weeks, with HRP President Kem Sokha saying his party will boycott Wednesday’s extraordinary session of the National Assembly if no delay is granted.
Mr Sokha said his party needed more time to discuss the draft law with the public and with legal experts.
“We can wait since 1994 up to now…. Why can’t we wait for another two weeks?” Mr Sokha asked. “It’s like there is something that they do not want us to have enough time to check on the draft of law.”
More than 15 years after first being proposed to the National Assembly, the government’s draft anticorruption law was hand-delivered late Thursday afternoon to all lawmakers, nearly three months after its secretive approval by the Council of Ministers.
The government said on Friday that the National Assembly, which is currently on holiday, will be recalled to debate the draft law on Wednesday.
Though he did not agree to join the HRP’s threatened boycott, SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said public debate on the draft law was too important to be rushed through the National Assembly.
Mr Chhay attempted last month to bring his own draft of an anticorruption law before the Assembly citing, the long delay in the government bringing its draft for debate as the reason for his action. He said yesterday that the government should allow more time for opposition lawmakers to analyze the draft before entering full parliamentary discussion.
“We will try our best to delay debate…for two weeks, but if we are not successful we will not boycott the debate,” Mr Chhay said, adding that SRP lawmakers would prepare themselves on the details of the draft law as much as possible before Wednesday.
Another SRP lawmaker, Kimsour Phirith, yesterday questioned the government’s intentions in rushing the Assembly debate.
“This fast [progress] of the law might be a tool for the government to lure donors,” he said. A regular conference of aid donors and government officials is scheduled to occur in late April.
The National Assembly in October approved a new penal code in eight days of debate without a single amendment. The opposition claimed at the time that the ruling CPP, with its vast majority of seats in parliament, had run roughshod over critical examination of the new law.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, however, said yesterday that the government will not delay the vote on the anticorruption law, because the Assembly president and the Assembly’s Standing Committee had already agreed the date.
“Requesting to delay [the debate] is invalid,” Mr Yeap said.
“This asking for a delay is due to opposition parties wanting to get [self] interest from this law,” he said, adding that opposition lawmakers had been given enough time to read the draft law and seek expert opinion from legal specialists.
“If [the law is released] late they say it is too late, but if it is too fast, they say it is too fast…. I do not know what they want,” he added.
The draft law provides for the creation of two new anticorruption bodies: the National Council on Anticorruption and the National Anticorruption Agency, to which a range of government and non-governmental officials, including the heads of NGOs, would be required to disclose their assets and debts confidentially.
Despite having the power to propose the director and deputy director of the National Anticorruption Agency, and to have regular reports on the work of both anticorruption bodies made available to him, the draft law will also require Prime Minister Hun Sen to disclose his assets and debts to the new anticorruption bodies, Mr Yeap said yesterday.
Mr Yeap, the chairman of the Assembly’s banking, finance and audit commission, added that he would personally like to see private sector leaders added to the list of those who must declare their assets and debt.
“For my personal idea, I would like that not only the director of the [government] department to declare their property, but also the director of the private sector companies,” Mr Yeap said.
Mr Chhay of the SRP, however, claimed that ruling party officials would not be affected by the disclosure of assets provision, because they would, in effect, only be sharing the information among people from their own party.
“The declaration of assets [provision] gives me no information on the prime minister’s assets, but Mr Hun Sen will have access to Mr Son Chhay’s asset details,” he said.
Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, said yesterday that he did not believe it should be necessary for NGO leaders to declare their assets, adding that the government never approached his organization to talk about the draft law.
“I think it is good to have anticorruption laws introduced…but I think there should be more consultation with civil society organizations,” he said.
Thun Saray, president of local right group Adhoc, said yesterday that he could not comment directly on the draft law because his organization was preparing a formal response, adding that a meeting would be held with other NGOs today to discuss the issue.