Rainsy Says Assembly Boycott Stands Despite Parliament Plans

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said on Wednesday that the CNRP would continue to boycott National Assembly sessions, although a senior lawmaker said the party would use parliamentary commissions to pressure government ministers on urgent national issues.

A number of local media outlets reported on Tuesday that the opposition was ending its boycott of the Assembly, which began after the attempted arrest of deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha in late May. However, Mr. Rainsy said it would require a “comprehensive solution” before the party made a full return.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy addresses CNRP youth members earlier this month via videolink during a meeting at the party’s Phnom Penh headquarters, in a photograph posted to his Facebook page.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy addresses CNRP youth members earlier this month via videolink during a meeting at the party’s Phnom Penh headquarters, in a photograph posted to his Facebook page.

“Going back to the National Assembly under the present circumstances would mean that the political situation has returned to normal, which is far from being the case,” Mr. Rainsy said in an email.

“As long as lawmakers’ parliamentary immunity is not respected and even their physical security is not guaranteed when fulfilling their duties, it remains extremely difficult for opposition National Assembly members to resume their normal work.”

Mr. Rainsy was ousted from parliament after a years-old defamation conviction was reactivated against him in November. He is living in France to avoid prison. Mr. Sokha, who was sentenced to five months in prison earlier this month, remains holed up in the CNRP’s Phnom Penh headquarters. An opposition parliamentarian and senator are in prison over allegedly criminal Facebook posts.

There are a total of 19 CNRP officials or members currently incarcerated on politically motivated charges, according to rights group Licadho.

Responding to threats of mass demonstrations against the judicial assault on the opposition, Mr. Hun Sen promised on Monday to “eliminate” those who attempted to stage such protests. He also said he had personally ordered the deployment of the military forces around the CNRP’s headquarters on August 31.

Mr. Rainsy said much needed to change before the CNRP could return to business as usual.

“In the absence of a comprehensive solution to the current political crisis, it is more relevant for us to denounce our country’s return to a one-party system,” he said.

Son Chhay, the lawmaker who heads the CNRP’s “parliamentary group,” said the opposition boycott had never stopped lawmakers from working within commissions, and only applied to plenary sessions.

He said the party would continue to push proposals to review three laws on the judiciary passed in 2014, and question the ministers of defense, agriculture, justice and health.

“We want to clarify that the CNRP never boycotted in general. We decided not to attend sessions because of the situation,” he said.

Although Mr. Hun Sen said on Monday that the CPP would not even consider negotiations until the CNRP dropped its threat of demonstrations and returned to parliament, Mr. Chhay said he was optimistic that the parties would soon find common ground.

“I believe that if we meet together, it will not be long before the situation becomes normal and people who are in jail will be released,” he said.

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