Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday threatened to throw the number two opposition leader out of parliament if he uses his new legislative powers to put government leaders into trouble.
Hun Sen issued the warning after Kem Sokha, the deputy president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) who was recently appointed the deputy speaker of parliament, said the opposition would use its newfound power in the legislature to go after and remove government officials who are corrupt.
Kem Sokha was appointed the number two leader of the National Assembly, the country's parliament, three weeks ago as part of an agreement between CNRP President Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen that defused the country's nearly one year political crisis.
Under the agreement, the CNRP ended its boycott of parliament since disputed general elections last year while Hun Sen, who heads the ruling 's Cambodian People's Party (CPP), agreed to implement key election reforms.
“If you vote to remove any CPP officials, we can also vote to remove the deputy president," Hun Sen said at a bridge groundbreaking ceremony in the capital Phnom Penh, in a clear warning to Kem Sokha.
"We will raise enough reasons to vote to remove you," said Hun Sen, whose party has 68 seats in parliament compared with the CNRP's 55 seats.
Under parliament rules, the deputy speaker of the National Assembly can be removed by a simple majority vote.
In what is seen as a general warning to the CNRP, Hun Sen said, "You can criticize us, but not too much. You just started work and you already want to remove the prime minister and ministers?”
Hun Sen said he has been monitoring the opposition criticism leveled at his party and government ministers despite what he called a "cease-fire" deal between him and Sam Rainsy.
“Over the past few days, I have heard bombardments [from the opposition]. I am monitoring them," Hun Sen said. "His excellency Sam Rainsy has announced a ceas-efire and I also announced a truce when I was at the National Assembly."
"Both sides need to watch their soldiers. We shouldn’t fire at each other, at least not during the Pchum Ben," he said, referring to an annual Khmer religious festival which began this week and ends on Sept. 24. "Please don’t throw curses everywhere you go.”
Last weekend, Kem Sokha told hundreds of party supporters in the Siem Reap resort province that “corrupt officials are hiding inside the government" and that "the National Assembly as part of its mandate can not only summon government officials or ministers for questioning but can also vote to remove them if they have been found to have committed corruption.”
Following Hun Sen's attack Tuesday, Kem Sokha asked whether Hun Sen was moving to protect corrupt officials.
Kem Sokha said the two parties agreed to end the political deadlock for the sake of the country but that didn’t mean that the CNRP should not criticize the CPP.
“Is he protecting the corrupt officials?," Kem Sokha asked. If the ministers are clean, he said, no lawmakers would remove them.
Reported by Ses Vansak and Samean Yun for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.