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Cambodian Parliament Debates Anti-Adultery Law

Cambodia's parliament is debating a controversial law that would jail adulterers for up to a year and ban polygamy.

Debate began in Phnom Penh today (Thursday) on a draft law that would limit Cambodians to marrying only one husband or wife. The proposal would impose severe penalties on anyone engaging in extramarital relations.

Lawmakers from Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party say the legislation will help stem social immorality. Opposition lawmakers oppose the law, however. They say it is too severe and undermines Cambodia's fragile democracy.

Opponents say the ban on polygamy is reminiscent of the absolute and harsh rules imposed by Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge regime.

The ultra-Maoists who led the Khmer Rouge during its brief but genocidal rule -- from 1975 to 1979 -- decreed that adultery and polygamy were crimes punishable by death.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has publicly complained about Cambodian government officials who keep mistresses, but the practice is common in many parts of the Buddhist nation.