Less than two weeks after promising to end a months-long legislative boycott of Cambodia’s National Assembly, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) backed away from its pledge on Friday, citing unspecified threats to opposition lawmakers.
“All CNRP lawmakers decided not to attend today’s meeting,” party spokesperson Yim Sovann told reporters in the capital Phnom Penh on Oct. 7 as the National Assembly, the country’s parliament, convened its plenary session.
“For meetings in the future, we will wait and assess the situation,” Yim Sovann said. “If the meetings are important and the political situation is conducive, we will attend.”
“If not, we will reserve our right not to participate,” he said.
The announcement came as about 500 Cambodians living in Australia prepared to launch a protest against a visiting Cambodian government delegation and calling for the release of democracy activists and opposition party members jailed in Cambodia.
The CNRP had said last week it would end its boycott of the National Assembly, and party members joined in preliminary meetings of parliament’s Permanent Standing Committee and five separate commissions on Sept. 28.
On Friday, ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesperson Sok Eysan called the CNPR’s move on Friday “a pretext” for resuming interference in the National Assembly’s work.
“They want to cause trouble in the parliament, and they want to hold it hostage [to party political demands],” Sok Eysan said. “This is not going to work.”
“This goes against decisions made by the Permanent Committee in two meetings last week that were attended by five of [the CNRP’s] members, and it violates the parliament’s own internal rules,” he said.
The two parties have now been locked for months in a political statement, with Cambodian authorities stripping several opposition lawmakers of their legislative immunity. Lawmakers have also been put on trial for a variety of offenses, many of which appear to be aimed at undercutting the CNRP before local elections in 2017 and national elections the following year.
Cambodia’s King Sihamoni meanwhile called on Friday for the CPP and CNRP to work together for the sake of national unity and the country’s development of multiparty democracy and support for human rights.
Speaking in a live interview at Radio Free Asia ‘s Washington office on Friday, CNRP party leader Sam Rainsy said he welcomed the king’s message, adding, “This is now a good time for us to go and see the king to ask him to intervene for the sake of national reconciliation.”
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written in English by Richard Finney.