Jailed CNRP Lawmaker Says Prison Is Safer Than Freedom

Leaving the Appeal Court after his latest motion for release was rejected, Um Sam An, an outspoken opposition lawmaker who was jailed in April, said he was safer in prison that he would be if he were free.

Coming two days after the execution-style shooting of political analyst Kem Ley, the Appeal Court rejected Mr. Sam An’s argument that his arrest was illegal due to his constitutional protection from prosecution as a member of parliament.

Opposition lawmaker Um Sam An is escorted into the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh yesterday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Opposition lawmaker Um Sam An is escorted into the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh yesterday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“It is an injustice because the court did not decide to comply with Article 80 of the Constitution and …detained me as a lawmaker with immunity,” he told reporters as he was escorted from the courthouse in Phnom Penh.

“However, me being in prison is safer than staying outside of prison. If I were outside of prison, I might meet the fate of Mr. Kem Ley because Mr. Kem Ley dared to criticize the government…and he was killed,” he added.

Mr. Sam An was arrested upon returning to Cambodia after months abroad and subsequently charged with inciting social instability and inciting discrimination over Facebook posts accusing the government of using illegal border maps and ceding land to Vietnam.

The government has argued that Mr. Sam An’s arrest was legal because the Facebook posts had not been deleted, meaning he was caught in the act of committing a crime—the one exception to parliamentary immunity. The CNRP and legal experts say the CPP is flagrantly violating the Constitution.

The lawmaker reverted to his racially charged rhetoric on Tuesday, accusing the country’s courts of acting at the behest of the “Yuon,” an often-derogatory term for the Vietnamese.

“Mr. Hun Sen and the CPP have waged a constitutional coup because they detained a lawmaker who has immunity,” he said. “The government arrested the patriots to please the Yuon.”

Im Sophan, a prosecutor at the Appeal Court, declined to comment on the hearing, which was held behind closed doors.

Mr. Sam An’s lawyer, Hem Socheat, said they planned to appeal the latest decision.

“We will appeal to the Supreme Court,” he said.

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