National Assembly President Heng Samrin said Thursday that he would convene the Assembly’s Permanent Committee to restore the parliamentary immunity of op-position party leader Sam Rainsy next week.
In a move widely deemed un-constitutional, the CPP-dominated standing committee voted to re-move Sam Rainsy’s immunity last week in order for the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to move forward with legal proceedings against the SRP leader after he refused to pay a fine imposed by the National Election Committee. Sam Rainsy, who paid the $2,500 fine the day after the lifting of his immunity on Feb 26, is currently in Europe.
Heng Samrin commented during a National Assembly ceremony led by Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Addressing SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua directly, Heng Samrin said: “Everything must follow legal procedure: We cannot give back [the immunity] just because you beg.”
Mu Sochua said in a phone in-terview after the ceremony that the Assembly should never have re-moved Sam Rainsy’s immunity, since it is in violation of Cambodia’s Constitution, which calls for a vote of the entire Assembly, not just a committee, to remove immunity.
“I was the one who accused him as the president of the National Assembly of not complying with the law and the Constitution,” Mu Sochua said, urging the government to restore the immunity without further delay.
And, she added, Heng Samrin’s comments during Thursday’s ceremony were “unnecessary,” and “disrespectful to women” because it was the wrong time and place to make such statements.
“He scolded me for accusing the Assembly of being unconstitutional…. But he should have addressed the issue at a better time,” she said.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap confirmed that the Assembly will call a meeting of the standing committee next week and decide on the issue. He also claimed that the committed had not acted against the Constitution.
(Additional reporting by Cajsa Collin)