The Sam Rainsy Party is considering replacing opposition party member Cheam Channy as the director of Committee Number 14, the controversial body that the government said was a front for a private army, opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Thursday.
The committee, which the opposition says monitors the activities of the Ministry of Defense, led to Cheam Channy’s seven-year sentence in August for forming a so-called illegal armed force.
Son Chhay said the opposition is considering appointing someone from a more educated background, rather than Cheam Channy, who used to be a soldier.
“The party is considering if he is capable enough to keep running the shadow cabinet’s Committee 14, because we have to seek new leadership from those of a research-oriented and educational background,” he said.
Son Chhay added that Cheam Channy sometimes handled issues faced by the committee in the manner of a soldier, and structured the body like a military chain of command.
“The way he did was sometimes not technically appropriate as a lawmaker, even though he was very helpful,” Son Chhay said.
Cheam Channy said he has been matured by his spell in military prison, which ended on Monday after he was pardoned by King Norodom Sihamoni.
“Yes, I was a bit aggressive in the past but now I have become mature and am more careful,” he said, adding that it is up to the party to decide what role he should fill.
He warned that the government could use the committee to frame the opposition again.
“Even though we are innocent, the government wants to catch our mistakes: They would do it,” he said.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said he is not concerned about the continued operations of the committee.
“Most importantly, they should make more constructive criticism of all the problems we face,” he said, adding that he understands that other democracies accept the notion of shadow cabinets.
Chea Vannath of the Center for Social Development said she would welcome a restructuring of the opposition’s shadow cabinet, saying there are plenty of aspects of the government’s policy and law enforcement that need monitoring.