Cambodia’s main opposition party on Wednesday ended a two-month boycott of parliament begun after two opposition lawmakers were beaten outside the National Assembly by pro-government protesters in October.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party’s 55 lawmakers had been staying away from the assembly in protest, saying that they no longer felt that their safety there was guaranteed.
However, opposition leader Sam Rainsy – who is currently living in France after a years-old criminal defamation case against him was resurrected in November – said last week that the party would decide whether to attend future sessions of parliament on a case-by-case basis.
On Wednesday, opposition lawmakers formally ended their boycott by attending a session to discuss a proposed law on animal health and safety, CNRP lawmaker Keo Phirum told Anadolu Agency.
The decision to attend came after the ruling Cambodian People’s Party pushed several bills through the National Assembly with little debate in the CNRP’s absence, including a new national budget, a telecommunications law, and a statistics law.
Although CNRP lawmakers complained about the passage of the laws, they ultimately had no choice but to take their seats and re-engage or risk further marginalization, especially with a crucial draft law on unions on the slate.
Last week, the two parties negotiated an agreement to allow the opposition more input on the union law before it is debated on the floor of the National Assembly, local newspaper The Cambodia Daily reported.
Phay Siphan, a government spokesperson, praised the opposition’s decision to rejoin parliament, pointing out that it was the only way the CNRP had to represent the interests of those who had voted for the party.
“The voters elected [the CNRP], gave them a vote…to sit in the National Assembly, to protect their vote, to protect their interests,” he told Anadolu Agency.
“I think it is good that the CNRP decided to go back and sit in the National Assembly and expend the opportunity to talk to solve the national issue, not a personal issue,” he added.