The Mekong Times
Foreign Minister Hor Namhong has confirmed that opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s parliamentary immunity will not be stripped before the July 27 national election, thus allowing him to lead his party through the election campaign, according to a top European Union (EU) official.
Hor Namhong told Martin Callanan, chief observer of the EU Election Observation Mission, last Thursday that the National Assembly (NA) will not follow Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s request to strip Sam Rainsy of his parliamentary immunity ahead of the election, Callanan said at a press conference in Phnom Penh on Friday.
Hor Namhong filed defamation and disinformation charges against Sam Rainsy April 22 after the opposition leader made remarks at an April 17 ceremony at the Choeung Ek Killing Fields indirectly accusing Hor Namhong of being the chief of the notorious former Khmer Rouge Boeung Trabek prison.
The court made the request to strip Sam Rainsy’s immunity after the prosecution had gathered evidence it alleges indicates that Sam Rainsy committed defamation and disinformation.
Sam Rainsy said he was not afraid of the threats to deprive him of his immunity, and he alleged that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is driving the move to divert people’s attention away from skyrocketing goods prices and land disputes which it is unable to deal with. He said these “political threats” stem from the CPP’s fear that it will lose the election to his Sam Rainsy party and that the threats could adversely affect the election.
In addition to Hor Namhong’s recent promise, NA officials had earlier announced that it would be impossible to remove Sam Rainsy’s immunity before the election, as the NA is in recess during the election campaign. They said the possible removal of the opposition leader’s immunity would be decided after the election.
Sam Rainsy has failed to appear to testify at the lawsuit filed by Hor Namhong on two occasions, claiming that he was occupied on party business. Sam Rainsy will again be required to appear in court June 26, but his lawyer Choung Chougy claimed his client may not be able to appear as he is very busy.
Authorities cannot arrest or detain Sam Rainsy while his immunity has not been suspended.
Dam Sith, editor-in-chief of the SRP-affiliated newspaper Moneaksekar Khmer, was arrested and jailed for a week after the newspaper quoted Sam Rainsy’s remarks. The journalist was released following a request for bail from Prime Minister Hun Sen.