The European Union’s elected body has called for considering sanctions against Cambodia if opposition lawmaker Cheam Channy is not released and parliamentary immunity for three opposition lawmakers is not restored.
In a motion passed March 10, the European Parliament urged member states “to consider imposing appropriate sanctions if the National Assembly and the government of Cambodia do not reverse their recent actions.”
The motion also encouraged the EU to send a delegation to Cambodia to “evaluate the country’s political situation” and the government’s “attempts to silence opposition in Cambodia.”
Opposition lawmakers Sam Rainsy, Cheam Channy and Chea Poch were stripped of their immunity in a controversial National Assembly vote on Feb 3.
Cheam Channy was arrested that day and accused of forming an illegal armed force. The opposition maintains it was merely a watchdog group overseeing RCAF activities.
Cheam Channy remains detained in military prison.
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay commended the European Parliament for what he says has been the strongest statement yet from the international community.
“The messages coming out from the US and others has not been strong enough,” he said Sunday. “This is very strong. It will make the government careful.”
While Son Chhay said he was not in favor of sanctions, he said the international community should re-evaluate how it donates aid money.
“All donor countries must reconsider how money goes to the country,” he said, adding he expects Sam Rainsy to return to the country in early April following a tour of Asia.
Meanwhile, Son Chhay said he hoped Funcinpec and National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh would ask Prime Minister Hun Sen for Cheam Channy’s release on bail, as the opposition lawmaker had requested during a meeting with the prince on Friday.
Military Court Judge Pork Porn said Sunday that the issue of whether to release Cheam Channy would be decided during an Appeals Court hearing March 21.
Mao Sophearith, Cheam Channy’s lawyer, said he has sent several requests to the military court and the Cambodian Bar Association asking for the case to be transferred from military to municipal court but had not yet received a reply.
Requests that Cheam Channy be allowed to read newspapers and listen to the radio were rejected in an informal reply from Pork Porn.
Pork Porn said he was not in a position to give Cheam Channy access to either.
“It would hinder my investigation,” he said.