Opposition lawmakers boycotted Thursday’s meeting of the CPP-controlled Senate as it stripped the immunity of Senator Thak Lany, opening her up to defamation charges in a lawsuit brought by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The unanimous vote followed an hourlong closed-door session. After the meeting, Senate spokesman Mam Bun Neang announced the vote to reporters, saying: “The Senate decided to strip the immunity of her Excellency Thak Lany by 46 voices of 46 voices.”
Senators from the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) boycotted the meeting, while two senators appointed by the king did not attend as they were ill and old, but there was still a legal quorum, Mr. Bun Neang said.
Senator Teav Vannol, acting president of the SRP, to which Ms. Lany belongs, criticized the Senate’s action, describing it is an example of the CPP putting political pressure on the opposition.
Ms. Lany also did not attend the session. Last month, Ms. Lany’s husband said she was abroad seeking medical care, Mr. Vannol said.
Mr. Bun Neang said the Senate also did not know where Ms. Lany was and that the court could not find her house, so brought her summons and other documents to the Senate.
Mr. Hun Sen sued the senator earlier this month for allegedly accusing him in a speech of personally ordering the July 10 murder of political analyst Kem Ley. Ms. Lany has denied the claim and said the video in which she apparently makes the accusations was doctored. She twice skipped scheduled questioning about the allegations at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
The results of the Senate immunity vote will be sent next week to the court, which will consider the evidence and decide whether to charge her with defamation and incitement, Mr. Bun Neang said.
Ly Sophana, a municipal court spokesman, confirmed the court would pursue the case.
Sam Sokong, Ms. Lany’s lawyer, previously said that she declined to appear for court questioning because she had immunity from prosecution and because of sparse evidence. He also said she would consider appearing if the Senate removed her immunity.
After Thursday’s vote, Mr. Sokong said he would send evidence to the court that would “show that her excellency Thak Lany is clean and she is innocent.”
He said he did not know his client’s whereabouts.
Correction: The headline with a previous version of this article incorrectly identified Thak Lany as a CNRP lawmaker.