Cambodia’s opposition party backtracked Thursday on claims they were to set up a shadow cabinet, after a government spokesman warned that such action was illegal.
Shadow cabinets exist in the British and Australian parliamentary systems said on Thursday, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) spokesman Yim Sovann said he had needed to clarify that there had never been an intention to establish one here.
“This morning, I made a clarification that the 10 committees belong to the steering committee of the party,” he said.
“These committees have been established to advise ideas to the committees in the National Assembly that are controlled by the CNRP. There was no plan to set up a shadow cabinet.”
He claimed that unlike Australia and the United Kingdom, Cambodia’s constitution and the assembly’s internal regulations prohibit such a body from being set up.
Earlier on Thursday, The Cambodia Daily quoted National Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long as saying that in the absence of any legal provisions to set up shadow cabinets, “the National Assembly will not recognize what they are doing, and there will be action from the government.”
The issue arose after CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said Tuesday that the party was going to create a group of shadow ministers.
The Daily reported that a 2005 attempt by an opposition party to set up a shadow cabinet ended in the jailing of a lawmaker on sedition charges, after he was accused by the prime minister, Hun Sen, of trying to set up a “shadow army”.
But political analyst Ou Virak said on Thursday that he didn’t see what the problem is, because there is nothing in the constitution or internal rules that would prevent an opposition party from setting up a shadow body with shadow ministers.
“There’s no mention of a shadow government, so that doesn’t mean it’s illegal,” he said. “A government in exile would be a huge difference. I’m not even sure if [the government] know what they’re opposing.”
He said the public would benefit from knowing not only what a government minister would propose to tackle certain issues, but how it would be conversely handled by the shadow minister.
“If the government is saying that anything the CNRP is doing to strengthen itself is illegal, then you might as well stop competing; it’s basically a whole charade,” he added. “The CNRP has every right to compete to win over power through elections.”