Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cambodian opposition MPs stripped of parliamentary immunity

Cambodian opposition MPs stripped of parliamentary immunity

Cambodia's opposition says it's under attack because of what it describes as a new round of politically motivated lawsuits and a vote by the National Assembly which has resulted in two opposition MPs being stripped of their parliamentary immunity.

Mu Sochua, former Cambodian minister of women's affairs, and Ho Vann, a Phnom Penh municipality representative, had their immunity lifted after a single show-of-hands vote by the National Assembly. They both face defamation lawsuits in Cambodia's notoriously corrupt courts.

Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speaker: Mu Sochua, Cambodian opposition MP

COCHRANE: High profile opposition MP Mu Sochua has been locked in a battle of lawsuits with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen for some weeks now.

But, now that the National Assembly has voted to remove the Parliamentary immunity from Mu Sochua and her fellow party member Ho Vann, effectively, the gloves are off...

SOCHUA: The procedures where the most undemocratic because we were not allowed a chance to speak at all and there was a vote by raising of hands, lifting immunity of two members of parliament at the same time in one vote.

COCHRANE: Let's deal with them separately, why was your immunity lifted?

SOCHUA: My case is from a lawsuit by the Prime Minister against me for defamation. The Prime Minister pointed very clearly at me when he went to my constituency and talked about a number of parliament, a women from the opposition party and called me by a name that is not acceptable to call me, he called me a hustler. Second he said that I went and grabbed men and thirdly it was related to meetings that I went to and I was not allowed to go in, and he said that I had a very thick skin. And fourth, which is very, very serious is that I incite my constituents and people against the government.

COCHRANE: And can you tell me about the other member of parliament whose immunity was lifted? Who was that and why was the immunity lifted?

SOCHUA: My colleague, Mr Ho Vann is a member of parliament elected in the municipality of Phnom Penh. He made a comment by responding to the media about honorary degrees that were received by some military officials. His comment was that he didn't think that these degrees were valuable, but if they were valuable then the quality of degrees should allow the numbers of the armed forces to help and then to protect the nation.

COCHRANE: Without parliamentary immunity you face the court as an ordinary citizen, what chances do you think you'll have of finding justice at the court?

SOCHUA: The chance of me getting justice is very close to zero.

COCHRANE: Mu Sochua you've said previously that you would rather go to jail rather than pay a fine if you are found guilty of this defamation charge. Are you still feeling that same way?

SOCHUA: Definitely I am very determined to face the court and I will not be surprised if the court finds me guilty. My stance will not change, I am ready, my conscience is clear about wanting justice, wanting a judicial system that can protect citizens of Cambodia. So I am ready, I am preparing to go to jail.

COCHRANE: There are rumours around at the moment that you are about to flee the country or you may have already fled the country. Is there any truth to those rumours?

SOCHUA: I have always been very transparent that I am not fleeing the country. I came back to Cambodia in 1989, I have never gone back to America to live. My country is Cambodia, I said from the very beginning that I will not flee, I will come back to face the courts.

COCHRANE: Mu Sochua, just finally, this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. In the past opposition leader Sam Rainsy and Cheam Channy and others have had their immunity stripped, and in Cheam Channy's case gone to jail. Do you think this is a political action against you.

SOCHUA: Yes it's a political action against the opposition. Cambodia is walking more than one step backwards, democracy in Cambodia is in real jeopardy. I think the world community cannot ignore this and especially the government of Australia. What is Australia doing when democracy in Cambodia is facing such a serious set of going back to dictatorship?

COCHRANE: A representative from Cambodia's National Assembly was not available for comment on the issue.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cambodia rebukes Thailand

Cambodia rebukes Thailand

Minister Hor Namhong (left) gestures with repeated comments made by top Thai government officials over the complaint to withdraw Preah Vihear temple from World Heritage site. --PHOTO: AP

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA on Saturday rebuked Thailand for reopening a debate over an ancient temple on their disputed border that has led to seven soldiers being killed.

High-ranking Thai officials this week asked world heritage body Unesco to reconsider its decision to formally list the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, as ownership of land surrounding the ruins is still in dispute.

Soldiers from Cambodia and Thailand continue to patrol the area and occasional outbreaks of violence between them have triggered gunbattles that have killed seven troops in the past year.

But Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters that soldiers would be ready to defend their land again if necessary.

'Cambodia welcomes Thailand militarily, diplomatically, internationally or through peaceful negotiations,' Hor Namhong said.

'(But) it (border fighting) has happened twice... (so) if they want to send their troops to Cambodia a third time, we will welcome them too,' he said.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva made a one-day visit to Cambodia last week in an attempt to push forward border talks, but his subsequent comments only appear to have reignited the dispute.

'I heard that the second Thai commander on the border put his troops on alert and I'd like to tell them that Cambodian soldiers are also on alert,' Mr Hor Namhong added.

Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads over the land around the Preah Vihear temple for decades, but tensions spilled over into violence last July when the temple was granted UN World Heritage status.

The border between the two countries has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia. -- AFP

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June 20, 2009

While pushing for the lifting of Mu Sochua’s parliamentary immunity, Prime Minister Hun Sen has been suggesting that she be replaced as a National Assembly member at the initiative of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

On behalf of the SRP, I can assure the Cambodian people and all Cambodia’s friends that Mu Sochua’s seat at the National Assembly will remain hers until the end of her legal term and that no replacement will be appointed.

Mu Sochua is the victim of an injustice. Hun Sen wants to eliminate her from Cambodia’s political landscape. It is a blatant abuse of power that is only possible with a subservient judiciary and a rubber-stamp parliament.

Replacing Mu Sochua would be like politically burying her alive and complying with Hun Sen’s insane desire.

When, in 2005, Cheam Channy, another SRP National Assembly member, was stripped of his parliamentary immunity and subsequently put in jail following a trumped-up criminal charge, there were also suggestions that he be replaced. But it was clear to us that replacing Cheam Channy would mean that we would accept the injustice done to him, let our colleague down, contribute to his political elimination and compound a personal tragedy. We proudly accepted to temporarily and practically lose a seat, a voice and a vote at the National Assembly.

We were right to stick to our principles. In 2006, Cheam Channy was released from prison, his immunity restored, and he recovered his seat at the National Assembly.

We are confident that adopting a similar position in the case of Mu Socha now is the right thing to do.

The same observations apply to the case of countless SRP-affiliated elected commune councilors, including commune chiefs, who have been arrested and sent to jail for politically-motivated charges. For instance, Mu Sochua’s case cannot be dissociated from the case of Tuot Saron, the SRP-affiliated elected chief of Pong Ro commune in Kampong Thom province’s Barai district. Tuot Saron is currently and unjustly in jail. But he will not be replaced. We will do all we can to help free him and to re-install him as commune chief as we are fighting to render justice to Mu Sochua.

Sam Rainsy
Member of Parliament
SRP President

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