An adviser to Funcinpec and National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh on Tuesday chided his boss’ involvement in stripping three opposition lawmakers of their parliamentary immunity last week, saying the move was “politically a big loss” for Funcinpec.
Loek Bunnal, a former Funcinpec lawmaker and now an adviser to the prince, said many royalist parliamentarians were unhappy with Prince Ranariddh’s direction in orchestrating Thursday’s Assembly vote.
“They voted in favor of doing so anyway,” he said. “We could do nothing but follow the prince’s guideline.”
“This stripping of parliamentarians of their immunity is a bad sign for…democracy,” he said. “I fear that the other lawmakers must feel very intimidated.”
Funcinpec lawmaker Princess Norodom Vacheara, who was among those voting in favor of stripping the immunity of opposition leader Sam Rainsy and lawmakers Cheam Channy and Chea Poch, also lamented the move.
“Frankly speaking, any such [removal of immunity] showed a setback in the development of democracy,” she said Tuesday.
Princess Vacheara said she had been “so emotional” during the Assembly session.
“I had very high stress as the Assembly voted to strip Sam Rainsy and his people of their immunity,” she said. “I was sorry those people did not stay and defend themselves.”
The three lawmakers were not present during the vote. They sought protection at the US Embassy for a brief time before Sam Rainsy fled the country.
Party officials say he is now in Europe. Chea Poch has since fled to the US, and Cheam Channy was arrested by military police.
Princess Vacheara urged the opposition party to continue its work. “The opposition’s role is so important in Cambodia because they can be an effective watchdog over the government,” she said.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said that the decision shows that the Funcinpec president no longer has any confidence in his party. “That’s why he wants to disperse the opposition Sam Rainsy Party for his gain,” he said.