Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen assured lawmakers Thursday that he would not interfere in parliamentary affairs, but took to task those who criticized him for issuing a threat against the opposition deputy speaker of the legislature.
He was elaborating on his Sept. 9 threat to throw Kem Sokha, deputy president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), out of the National Assembly, the country’s parliament, if Kem Sokha uses his new legislative powers to put government leaders into trouble.
Hun Sen, who is also an elected lawmaker, said he did not intend to meddle with parliamentary affairs when he made the threat.
“I want those critics to study hard before accusing Hun Sen of interfering in the National Assembly,” the prime minister said at a meeting Thursday.
“Don’t forget that before becoming the prime minister, I must become a lawmaker first. So when I talk about the assembly, it doesn’t mean that I interfere with the assembly’s affairs,” he said.
Kem Sokha had said earlier that the CNRP, which entered parliament in July after boycotting it for about a year, would use its newfound power in the legislature to go after and remove government officials who are corrupt.
Kem Sokha was elected the number two leader of the National Assembly last month as part of an agreement between CNRP President Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen that defused the country's nearly one year old political crisis.
Under the agreement, the CNRP ended its boycott of parliament since disputed general elections in July last year while Hun Sen, who heads the ruling 's Cambodian People's Party (CPP), agreed to implement key election reforms.
Kem Sokha was chosen to be the number two leader of parliament on Aug. 26 with votes from lawmakers from both his CNRP and Hun Sen’s CPP.
Hun Sen stressed Thursday that Kem Sokha and other CNRP lawmakers could not have been elected to posts in the legislature without votes from the ruling party.
The CPP has 68 seats in parliament while CNRP has 55 seats—the largest share held by the opposition since Hun Sen came to power three decades ago.
Hun Sen also asked CNRP lawmakers on Thursday not to criticize government policies in public and confine their criticism to parliament.
Any move to remove government officials should also be done through the parliamentary process, he said.
CNRP President Sam Rainsy said that he would continue to push for the resolution of issues in the national interest and through a “constructive way.”
Local political commentator Kem Lei disputed Hun Sen’s claim that he did not want to interfere in parliamentary affairs.
He said that Hun Sen could not ban lawmakers from speaking out in public, stressing that they enjoyed immunity from prosecution.
Reported by Tin Zakariya for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.