ASSOCIATION OF PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARIANS

OF ASIA AND THE PACIFIC (APLAP)

EIGHTH BIENNIAL CONFERENCE

NEW DELHI, INDIA

18-22 JANUARY 2005

 

 

 

SESSION 4

21.1.2005 (1400 Hrs)

BRINGING PARLIAMENT NEARER TO THE PEOPLE: COMMUNICATING PARLIAMENT

 

 

 

COUNTRY PAPER OF CAMBODIA

by

MOMKHLEM KHLEMCHAN

Information Department

Secretariat-General of the National Assembly

Cambodia

 

Today, I am very happy to be here. Please allow me to express my hearty deep welcome to the International Delegates and APLAP's colleagues attending the 8th Biennial Conference in the Main Lecture Hall, BPST, Parliament Library Building in New Delhi, India. It is my honour and privilege to be here with you this morning. I take this opportunity to thank you very much and the UNDP in Cambodia, for full support for attending this Conference.

As you may know, there are some challenges in my country in upgrading the services to the legislative bodies step by step such as information/research/library/and some documentation which are almost duplicate. This includes managing most of the second hand books donated by the Asia Foundation, others, embassies, and NGOs based in Cambodia.

We have very few new books in library and other expert commissions or departments related to the Secretariat-General of the National Assembly, Cambodia. Since 1993 up to present, we do not much budget to buy new books that are most related to the lawmakers. As such, the library is quite small with seating for around 10 to 15 people, after it was established during 1993 and 1994 with assistance from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Asia Foundation, etc.

Now, the library has a collection of about 3,000 books in languages of Khmer, English, French, and others with subscription of about of 38 newspapers, magazines; most of the departments do not have an annul budget for publication or purchasing new books or journals, except monthly bulletins for MPsí activities.

After Cambodia suffered chronically in the wars for more than two decades, I believe that we will learn new war and share the skill to improve our skills. We need to strengthen a leadership in new generation, develop the human factor, infrastructure, to reform the education system and administration management in this country through the process of democracy, etc.

However, I have the honour to appreciate the gathering here to exchange knowledge and experience ours countres. We particularly appreciate the Distinguished Guests for your exemplary work in capacity-building and for your activities in your research and library services and other work which have so greatly benefited our parliamentarians and our people.

This Conference is an important factor in our efforts to strengthen capacity building and in the context of the changing Dimensions of Parliamentary Library and Information Services in the Third Millennium among the countries of Asia and Pacific region and worldwide, especially in the era of globalization. I will share all my knowledge experiences gathered from this Conference with my department at the Secretariat-General and try to help in doing its best in modernization as much as possible.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for coming to this important Conference of the 8th APLAP.

Country Report on the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia

My name is Momkhlem Khlemchan. I am doing work on Information Services for Parliamentarians and Library and research services since 1994 at the Secretariat-General of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia. I am pleased to be here to meet our APLAP family who have come to participate in the 8th Biennial Conference from other parliamentary libraries around Asia Pacific and the world. I would like specially to thank the organizers for making it possible for me to be present at the Conference. I am also very pleased to thank my main sponsor, the UNDP in Cambodia, for enabling me to be here.

Cambodia is a country with a total population 13,099,472 (male 6,348,112 and female 6,751,360) and cover a land area of 181,035 kms. with 24 Provinces, 183 District, 1609 Communes and 13406 Villages, Phnom Penh is the main Capital among the 3 Capitals, in southwestern of the Indo- China peninsula. It is bounded on the west by Thailand, on the north by Thailand and Laos, on the east by Vietnam and on the south by the gulf of Thailand. Cambodia's topographical features are the Mekong River, which is almost 5 km wide in some places, and Tonle Sap Lake. The Mekong, raised in Tibet, flows through Mainland China, Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand before entering Cambodia about 486 km through the Khmer Kingdom.

The majority of Cambodian people are followers of Theravada or Hinayana and Buddhism, and other religions, etc. Its rich culture embraces nearly 2,000 traditions. From the allures of ancient temples of Angkor to the sights and sounds of Phnom Penh, the country has a wide verity of experiences to offer by way of ancient heritages. From 1863 until 1953, Cambodia was a French colony. After, independence on 9 November 1953, came King Norodom Siahnouk in the era of royalist regime.

The country continued to develop, but there was political instability in Cambodia in the 1970s. But, in 1975, the Khmer Rouge overthrew the government and the period of extreme hardship continued for more than three years. The whole country was thrown into the turmoil and people were forced to leave the towns and cities and went to live in the countryside. The country was like a prison where thousands of people died of deprivation, torture and starvation. During that period from April 1975 until January 1979, Schools and Universities were closed and libraries fell into neglect. Finally, in January 1979, the Khmer Rouge was driven out by the Vietnamese troops supported by Cambodian forces, who had previously escaped to Vietnam.

After almost three decades of armed conflicts and then, the recent events of July 1997, the royal Government has taken the lead with financial assistance from donor countries in setting and managing the domestic agenda. The Cambodian authorities worked hard to reach internal compromises and agreements, organized and conducted universal elections in 1998 and the first communal elections in early 2002 that will replace government appointed leaders with elected ones. This will be an important step towards democratic decentralization.

Now, Cambodia is part of the family of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and has joined AFTA (ASEAN Free Trade Agreement) and the World Trade Organization(WTO), etc.

The Legislative Branch of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia

The National Assembly

The National Assembly was established in 1993 on the basis of the results of the universal elections that have been organized by UNTAC (United Nation Transitional Authority in Cambodia), according to the Paris Peace Agreement of 23 October 1991. Thereafter, the Kingdom of Cambodia had its first Constitution.

On 23 May 1993 was elected a Constitutional Assembly, which would develop a Constitution. Contesting in the General Elections were 19 political parties for 21 constituencies to elect 120 Parliamentarians. The Constitution was promulgated on 24 September 1993. At the same time, the Constitutional Assembly became the National Assembly for the first term for a period of five years (1993-1998). The first-term National Assembly was composed: FUNCINPEC: 58 seats, Cambodian People's Party (CPP): 51 seats, Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party: 10 seats, and MOLINAKA: 1 seat, and Total: 120 seats. A coalition government was formed to govern the country for a period of five years according to the formula of 45% + 45% + 10%, with Co-Prime Ministers, and Co-Ministers of the Ministry of National Defense and those of the Ministry of the Interior.

The second General Elections took place on 26 July 1998 with 39 political parties competing for 122 seats for 22 constituencies. Of the 122 Parliamentarians, there were: Cambodian People's Party (CPP): 64 seats, FUNCINPEC: 63 seats, Sam Rainsy Party: 15 seats. A coalition government was formed between the Cambodian People's Party and FUNCIPEC with the Sam Raingsy Party left out to act as an opposition party in the National Assembly.

The Third General Elections were held on 27 July 2003 to elect 123 Parliamentarians with 23 political parties competing in 24 constituencies. The elected Parliamentarians comprised of: Cambodian People's Party (CPP): 73 seats, FUNCINPEC: 26 seats, and Sam Rainsy Party: 24 seats.

With respect to the legislation, the National Assembly of the first term had adopted 90 laws and the National Assembly of the second term had adopted 86 laws. The total of the adopted laws by those two terms was 176 laws.

Also, in 2000, as the National Assembly building was too small in comparison to the number of the officials and support staff, the General Secretariat decided to move a number of departments and offices to be stationed outside the building, i.e. one part was moved to another building.

At the beginning of 2003, due to the increase of workload over the period, the Permanent Standing Committee of the National Assembly decided to build another new National Assembly palace on a land-filled area located in Sangkat Tonle Bassac. The new National Assembly complex will be completed and inaugurated in the beginning of 2007.

The Tabling of the Draft Laws or the Proposed Laws:

The draft laws or the proposed laws shall be tabled first before the Permanent Standing Committee of the National Assembly. All draft laws or proposed laws shall be in written form, divided into articles and accompanied by explanatory notes.

The Permanent Standing Committee shall review the draft laws or proposed laws, and then decide to submit them to one of the nine Expert Commissions of the National Assembly.

The Debate and the Adoption at the Plenary Sessions

The Permanent Standing Committee shall submit the draft laws or proposed laws to the National Assembly by including them in the agenda of the Sessions of the National Assembly at the request of the Expert Commission after having reviewed the draft laws or proposed laws. .

The National Assembly meeting shall be considered valid provided that there is a quorum of at least 7/10 of all members who are present. The adoption of draft laws or proposed laws shall be decided by an absolute majority of the entire National Assembly members, except for the Constitutional law that requires a two-third majority of the entire National Assembly members.

Representatives of the Royal Government or the representatives of the related institutions who have drawn up the draft laws or proposed laws shall clarify and defend them.

The Chairperson of the Expert Commission shall submit the report to the National Assembly on this matter and defend the positions or stances of the Commission, especially the proposals for amendment by the Commission.

The debates and the adoptions shall be conducted in accordance with the following Rules and Procedures:

Debate and adoption of the overall contents and substance of the draft laws or proposed laws;

Debate and adoption of one article or one chapter at a time, or only the specific part that the Expert Commission will put forward, and;

- Adoption of the entire draft laws or proposed laws.

The draft laws or proposed laws that were first adopted by the National Assembly shall be forwarded to the Senate. Legislative power of the National Assembly is a body with legislative power and has to carry out the duties as stipulated in the Constitution and the internal Rules and Procedures of the National Assembly dated 28 October 1993. Since 1999, the legislative power has been conferred on two institutions: the National Assembly and the Senate. The duties of these two Houses are prescribed in the Constitution as follows:

Chapter 7, from articles 76 to 98, dealing with the National Assembly;

New Chapter 8, from new articles 99 to 115 dealing with the Senate;

New Chapter 9, from new articles 116 to 117 dealing with the Congress of the National Assembly and the Senate.

Organization

The legislative term of the National Assembly shall be five years and will end on the day when the new National Assembly is convened (Article 78) and the National Assembly shall consist of at least 120 members. The actual number of members of the National Assembly for each Term shall be determined every five years, by laws, following the proposals of the Royal Government.

The composition of this leadership is elected by 2/3 of votes. The President of the National Assembly shall chair the Sessions of the National Assembly; take cognizance of laws and resolutions adopted by the National Assembly; ensure the implementation of the Internal Rules and Procedures of the National Assembly; manage the international relations of the National Assembly; make sure that the functioning of the National Assembly is in line with the Constitution.

In the political field, Members of the National Assembly receive general information on the organization of a parliamentary institutional law and the new goals of the democratization in the world or on various specialized information on the procedures and processes of legislation, consultation with the civil society, and monitoring of the law implementation. In particular, in the area of human resources development, a number of international organizaticn, including the UNDP, the IPU, the World Bank, and a number of Non-Governmental Organizations such as the Asia Foundation, the KAF and the CIDA, have voluntarily and actively participated in this endeavor with the Cambodian Parliament as well.

In accordance with Article 6 of the Internal Rules and Procedures, the National Assembly shall establish 9 (nine) Expert Commissions as follows:

Commission on Protection of Human Rights and Reception of Complaints;

Commission on Finance and Banking;

Commission on Economy, Planning, Investment, Agriculture, Rural Development, and Environment;

Commission on the Interior, National Defence, Investigation, and Anti- Corruption;

Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Propaganda and Information;

Commission on Legislation;

Commission on Education, Religious Affairs, Culture, and Tourism;

Commission on Public Health, Social Actions, Labour, and Women's Affairs; and

Commission on Public Works, Transport, Post and Telecommunication, Industry, Energy, and Commerce. A Chairperson, a Deputy Chairperson, and a Secretary for each Expert Commission shall be elected.

The Cambodian National Assembly was given an honour to successively host, during its Second Legislative Term, a number of international Conferences and meetings as follows:

On 22 January 2001: Conference of the Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace (AAPP), was held at the Chaktomuk Conference Hall;

On 2 April 2001: Conference of Francophone Countries, was held at the Chaktomuk Conference Hall;

On 21 August 2002: Mrs. Mary Robinson, High Commissioner of the United Nations for Human Rights, delivered a historical declaration, at the Plenary Session Hall of the National Assembly, on the situation of Human Rights in the Kingdom of Cambodia and generally in the Southeast Asian region;

On 17 June 2003: Ms. Yoriko Kawaguchi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, presented a Keynote Address at the Chaktomuk Conference Hall, during the 50th anniversary of the Cambodia-Japan relations for a common future vision.

It is worth noting that all these Conferences and meetings were held under the Chairmanship of His Royal Highness Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh, President of the National Assembly. In September 2004, the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia was assigned by AIPO to organize its 25th Session in Phnom Penh.

Finally, it should also be noted that on 26 May 2000, members of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia established a Non- Governmental Organization, which is named as the "Association of Cambodian Parliamentarians on Population and Development" in order to liaise with the Parliamentary Associations of other nations in the areas of population and development.

GENERAL SECRETARIAT

The General Secretariat of the National Assembly is in fact a headquarter of the National Assembly and headed by a Secretary-General and a Deputy Secretary General instituted by a Royal Decree.

Structure

During the First Legislative Term, from 1993-1998, the General Secretariat consisted of four Departments: the Department of Administration, Finance, Legislation, Research, and other offices, the Office of Protocol , and the Office of the Secretary to the Secretary General were added.

During the First Legislative Term, there were 299 officials and support staff members who came from four political parties whose Members got elected as Members of Parliament in the National Assembly.

In response to the progress and increasing needs of the legislative institution, during its Second Legislative Term, the General Secretariat was re-structured as follows:

There were seven Departments: Department of Administration, Personnel, Finance, International Relations, Legislation, Legal Researches, and Communication/Information.

Roles and Duties: The General Secretariat is responsible for taking notes and compiling minutes of debates of complete proceedings of the Sessions, the Permanent Standing Committee, the various Commissions of the National Assembly, the general administration issues and the external relations with other institutions.

Provision of Technical and Professional Services: Review, analysis and researches on draft laws and proposed laws and other legal research issues; support and provision of technical assistance, legal and procedural advises on preparation of meetings; and support and provision of protocol advises and assistance in international activities and internal legislative procedures.

To complete the database and files with content is a very difficult and round-the-clock work. The main driving force behind this process is the Information Department which performs the following functions:

Information services for MPs and related staff

Creation and updating of various databases

Cooperation with outside organizations

Parliamentary cooperation groups

Our decision was to create several blocks of information, thereby reflecting the basic elements of Parliament routine.

Problem Areas and Suggestion:

The training of users and education of potential users in IT is extremely important for the efficient development and use of the information system. The employees at all levels must understand the importance of information and they must participate in the development and use of the Internet. This requires more and more involvement of integrated staff from various Departments and Standing Committees. And some time, you may have to show your diplomatic skills as well to realize the objection.

In future, our Information Department many work as different structures, like in most Parliaments, but in the initial stage, close co-operation, and sharing of ideas on a daily basis between librarians, researchers and other users of information and computer specialists, who provide the tools for keeping, searching and maintaining the information, will help a lot in creating better understanding and creating user friendly information.

With respect to the technical area, the General Secretariat of the National Assembly has received assistance in kind and financial assistance for training and developing its human resources to meet the needs that have been increasing with every legislative Term.

In particular, as stated earlier, in the area of human resources development, a number of international organizations, including the UNDP, the IPU, the World Bank, and a number of Non-Governmental Organizations such as the Asia Foundation, the KAF and the CIDA, have actively participated in this endeavour with the Cambodian Parliament.

References:

Papers, Documentations from the Library Office, Legal Research Department, 2004;

Papers, Documentations from the Information Department, 2004;

Secretariat-General of the National Assembly, Handbook 2003-2004; and

Who's Who in Cambodia, Year 2003-2004, Business Handbook.