Cambodia: Opposition ends parliament boycott to debate budget
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Cambodia: Opposition ends parliament boycott to debate budget

OPPOSITION lawmakers in Cambodia have ended a six-month boycott of the parliament, saying it wants to ensure the national budget for 2017 is debated properly in the house.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) had stopped attending parliamentary sessions after its members were stripped of their parliamentary immunity and confronted with lawsuits by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.

The opposition and human rights groups say the cases against the opposition are politically motivated, mounted to harass them.

Eng Chhai Eang, a senior opposition lawmaker, said ahead of the National Assembly session on Tuesday that the party’s position remains unchanged but it wants a political truce with the ruling party.

“We hope that from now on the tension (with the ruling party) will be removed,” he said, as quoted by the Associated Press.

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Hun Sen attended the session but opposition leader Sam Rainsy didn’t — he is in self-imposed exile to escape a defamation conviction.

According to the AP, Rainsy’s deputy, Kem Sokha, also did not attend the session because of a scheduling conflict, said Eng Chhai Eang.

In October last year, the opposition stage a parliamentary boycott after CNRP leader Kem Sokha was ousted as first vice president of the National Assembly in a CPP vote and after a reported assault on two CNRP lawmakers.

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In September, Kem Sokha was sentenced to five months in prison for twice ignoring a summons to answer questions related to a case involving his alleged mistress.

Opposition supporters claim the case is political motivated. He is free pending an appeal in the Supreme Court, the AP reported.

Amid deteriorating relations between the two sides last year, Hun Sen stepped up intimidation of the opposition party in the courts.

Rights groups said Hun Sen and other leaders of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), including those in the armed forces and police, have over the last year made a series of increasingly dire public threats against the opposition. Cambodia is due to hold its elections in 2018.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press