The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is taking direct aim at the pocketbooks of opposition lawmakers as it appears to be opening a new front in the nation’s ongoing political battle.
On Monday the National Assembly’s powerful 13-person Standing Committee ordered the Second Commission on Economics, Finance, Banking and Auditing of the Assembly to figure out if the government can stop paying lawmakers who boycott the legislature.
Opposition party lawmakers are boycotting National Assembly sessions as they attempt to pressure the government to develop a peaceful solution to the current political crisis that has seen lawmakers and activists critical of Prime Minister Hun Sen arrested and tossed into jail.
The committee’s six opposition party lawmakers did not vote as they boycotted standing committee meeting.
Eng Chhai Eang, a Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) senior official, dismissed the attempt to cut off the lawmakers, saying they are still working even as they boycott the National Assembly.
The current circumstances do not allow CNRP lawmakers to attend any sessions of the National Assembly, because the legislature has violated the constitution and fails to protect the lawmakers’ immunity, he told RFA’s Khmer Service.
Hun Sen’s government and the CPP have taken a number of actions that strike at the heart of the CNRP and other critics of the government and the ruling party.
Political tensions between the CPP and the CNRP have grown worse in recent months as the government has sought to arrest Kem Sokha, the CNRP’s acting president, in an attempt to force him to appear in court in connection with at least two complaints that have been filed related to an affair he is alleged to have had with a young hairdresser.
A National Election Committee member and four staffers with the rights group ADHOC, along with a U.N. worker, are facing bribery or accessory charges after being accused of attempting to keep the woman quiet about her alleged affair with Kem Sokha.
CNRP President Sam Rainsy has been staying in France or traveling since an arrest warrant was issued for him in November over a 2008 defamation case, and he was removed from his office and stripped of his parliamentary immunity. After Sam Rainsy left the country, the CNRP named Kem Sokha its acting president.
The government has also arrested more than a dozen opposition lawmakers on various charges including Senator Hong Sok Hour, CNRP media director Meach Sovannara, and Um Sam An, an opposition member of parliament.
While the CPP does its work inside the National Assembly, rights advocates vowed to continue with “Black Monday” protests on the outside.
Im Sreytouch, a representative of the SOS and Boeung KAK communities, said wearing a black outfit for the “Black Monday” campaign is not part of a so-called color revolution. Hun Sen last week suggest his opponents were seeking a color revolution, which refers to pro-democracy movements that sprung up in Ukraine, Georgia and other countries around the world where protesters rallied under colored banners.
"We urge Prime Minister Hun Sen to release all imprisoned human rights workers,” she said. “Those people are innocent.”
Reported by Thai Tha for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.