The National Assembly by unanimous vote on Thursday ratified two UN conventions, one about the suppression of terrorism, the other about preventing the illegal use and trafficking of plastic explosives.
But although the conventions sailed through the Assembly, the vote sparked a heated debate about how the issue of terrorism has been handled in Cambodia, with opposition parliamentarian Son Chhay arguing that it often provided an excuse to crack down on the opposition.
Ahmad Yahya, an Islamic opposition lawmaker, echoed Son Chhay’s concerns, citing the closure of the Om-Alqura Institute in Kandal province’s Muk Kampul district.
“Was there enough evidence to close the school?” he asked, suggesting that teachers suspected of being connected to extremist group Jehmahh Islamiyah could have been detained without the entire school being closed in May 2003. He also requested the release of teachers who have been detained since the school’s closure.
“It is now in the hands of the court,” replied co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, who added that terrorism cannot be blamed on any particular religion.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap wanted to hear none of Son Chhay’s criticisms, accusing him of being a pessimist and a demagogue.
“Don’t just say things that damage the nation,” he scolded. “Don’t engage in all this demagoguery, don’t see only the dark side of things.”
(Additional reporting by Michael Cowden)