Monday, June 10, 2013

Cambodia defends expulsion of opposition lawmakers from parliament

Xinhua | 2013-6-10

Cambodia's National Assembly on Monday defended its decision to expel 28 opposition lawmakers, saying that the expulsion was made in accordance with the Law on Political Parties.

Speaking in a press conference at the National Assembly, ruling Cambodian People's Party's lawmaker Chheang Von, chairman of the parliament's foreign affairs commission, explained that the parliamentary committee stripped 28 opposition lawmakers -- 25 legislators from the Sam Rainsy Party and 3 from the Human Rights Party -- of their salaries and parliamentary status last Wednesday because they violated the Law on Political Parties by simultaneously holding membership in two parties at the same time.

"According to the Law on Political Parties, the article 15 states that a Cambodian citizen must not simultaneously hold membership in more than one political party, but if he/she holds membership in more than one party, his/her membership in the last political party is valid," Chheang Von said.

"Based on this law, the parliament's committee terminated their parliamentary status and salaries because those lawmakers quit their old parties to join the newly formed opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party in order to run in July's general election," he said.

The explanation was made after the United States on Saturday expressed a deep concern over the expulsion and urged the National Assembly of Cambodia to allow all elected lawmakers to fulfill their term.

"Such a decision starkly contradicts the spirit of a healthy democratic process," Jen Psaki, spokesman of the US Department of State, said in a statement.

"We strongly support a political process that includes the full participation of all political parties on a level playing field," she said. "Stripping the salaries and parliamentary status of opposition party legislators deprives the Cambodian people of their voice and hurts the democratic process in Cambodia. "

She said that full participation of all elected representatives was essential to the democratic process.

"We urge the National Assembly leadership to allow all elected members to fulfill their commitment to serve the Cambodian people," she said.

Chheang Von said that the US's statement was "unacceptable" and was interfering Cambodia's internal affairs.

"Cambodia is a sovereign state, so the US cannot order Cambodia to go left or right," he said. "Cambodia has its own laws. We are strengthening democracy through law enforcement, we do everything based on laws; therefore, the US's statement is unacceptable."

"I appeal to the US to reconsider its statement," he said.

Meanwhile, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong expressed his disappointment to see some comments by some foreign diplomats about Cambodia's upcoming general election.

"This is the interference of Cambodia's internal affairs," he said during a meeting with Alison Burrows, new ambassador of Australia to Cambodia.

He said as a democratic country, Cambodia would do all its best to ensure a transparent and democratic election on July 28, and urged foreign observers to monitor the election.

Cambodia sets to hold a general election on July 28, according to the National Election Committee. Some 9.67 million eligible Cambodians will cast their ballots in the upcoming polls for the 123-seat parliament.

Eight parties will run in the election. Three major parties among them are the ruling Cambodian People's Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party led by self-exiled leader Sam Rainsy, and the royalist Funcinpec Party headed by Princess Norodom Arun Rasmey, the youngest daughter of late King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

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