U.N. human rights envoy Surya Subedi met with CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun at the National Assembly on Monday and was told he would be granted a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen during his current, ninth visit to Cambodia.
During Mr. Subedi’s most recent visit in December, not one government official followed through on his request for a meeting and Mr. Hun Sen said he had no time to take advice from “foreigners,” a sign of the envoy’s increasingly rocky relations with the government.
During Monday’s meeting with Mr. Vun, Mr. Subedi started by saying that he appreciated “the leadership that [Mr. Hun Sen] has provided…the country to achieve and maintain political stability.”
“I would like to congratulate you, since this time the prime minister of Cambodia will meet you,” Mr. Vun said in response. “This time you will meet the prime minister. He’ll arrive from abroad to see you,” he said.
The issues Mr. Subedi is specifically interested in tackling during this visit relate to parliamentary, electoral and judicial reform as well as the impact of economic land concessions on people’s rights. In a 2011 report, Mr. Subedi expressed his concern that the National Assembly was “declining” as an effective place of debate, where opposition or minority parties are viewed more as enemies of the state than “as political partners with differing views.”
Mr. Vun told Mr. Subedi on Monday that while opposition lawmakers were welcome to join the various working groups and committees within the assembly, they had declined during the course of the last mandate, which ended May 10.
“I regret that the opposition party rejected to join the National Assembly committees,” Mr. Vun said, adding that he was also sorry Mr. Subedi did not get a chance to see lawmakers in action during his visit.
SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said that the opposition refused committee memberships when their request to chair one of the assembly’s nine committees was denied.
Mr. Subedi and Mr. Vun also discussed the constitutional requirement that an annual national congress be held every December, which is to be presided over by the King and is supposed to “enable the people to be directly informed on various matters of national interests and to raise issues and requests for the state authority to solve.”
The congress has never been held, and the government has indicated that it sees no use for it and wants to change the Constitution to remove the requirement.
“You’ve given me very good insight as to why the national congress was put in the Constitution,” Mr. Subedi told Mr. Vun. “Cambodia is a sovereign country and the national Parliament has sovereign powers, and if it decides to amend the Constitution, I’ll accept it,” he added.