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Strengthen Next Assembly, Society Warns

[Editor's note: In the weeks leading into national polls, VOA Khmer will explore a wide number of election issues. The "Election Issues 2008" series will air stories on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a related "Hello VOA" guest on Thursday. This is the second in a two-part series examining the National Assembly.]

The limited power of the National Assembly should be changed after the election, so that lawmakers can truly represent those who elect them, members of civil society say.

After Cambodians go to the polls in July, the rules must be changed so that the National Assembly can act on accusations of corruption and the abuse of power within the government, fulfilling a watchdog role it has been hard-pressed to implement, they say.

“It is needed that we change the system after the election,” opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said. “To make sure that parliamentarians really represent citizens. If we can question the government, the scandals that we hear of will be reduced quickly.”

Son Chhay also encouraged National Assembly representatives to solve the problems of their constituents in the provinces—before they are forced to march to Phnom Penh in search of help.

Chiem Yeap, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said lawmakers in the next elected session should strengthen their role with more participation and discussions of the law, while Funcinpec lawmaker Monh Saphan suggested a greater strengthening of human resources after the election.

The National Assembly would be stronger were it allowed to question members of the other branches of government, said Im Francois, who monitors politics for the Center for Social Development. Parliamentarians should also be given more time at the microphone to debate and improve a democratic atmosphere, he said.