A Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker was abducted Wednesday evening at his home in central Phnom Penh, police and members of his party said.
Lon Phon, a National Assembly member representing Battambang province, was forced into a car by three armed men on Kampuchea Krom Boulevard at about 6:30 pm, party members said. A fourth man was reportedly behind the wheel of the car, described as a 1987 Camry.
Sam Rainsy called the abduction an illegal arrest by government authorities, noting that Lon Phon has parliamentary immunity, which would protect him from legal arrest. “[He] was arrested today when four armed soldiers entered his Phnom Penh home without a warrant and seized him,” Sam Rainsy wrote by e-mail from Paris.
Interior Ministry Spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Wednesday night that he was aware of Lon Phon’s abduction, but dismissed allegations that the lawmaker was arrested by authorities.
Late Wednesday night, police and party officials said they did not know where Lon Phon was.
“According to the Constitution, arresting a lawmaker requires a greenlight from parliament,” Khieu Sopheak said. “Those who committed this crime must be brought to justice.”
Khuon Sophon, the chief of the municipal criminal police, also confirmed the abduction, but said no motive had been determined.
The incident is the latest in a recent string of arrests and summonses involving members of the opposition party and Funcinpec—the two chief political rivals to the CPP, which dominates the current coalition government.
Human rights groups expressed concern about the abduction.
“This is most certainly a serious and disturbing incident,” said Kyle Gillespie, officer in charge at the Phnom Penh UN Rights Center. “We’ve already started conducting an investigation. We are going to treat this as a high-priority case.”
Lon Ponh is in his mid-40s and has business interests in Phnom Penh and Battambang province, party cabinet officials said.
Monh Siyonn, another Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian, characterized the abduction as political intimidation, implying that opposition opponents were behind the crime. “This is a political kidnapping,” he said.
Said opposition cabinet chief Phi Thach, “This as a kind of terrorism to repeatedly intimidate and suppress the opposition.”
Two Sam Rainsy Party members have had high-profile run-ins recently. Mong Davuth and Kung Bun Heang were arrested in early September as suspects in last year’s B-40 rocket attack on a convoy of politicians in Siem Reap town. They are being held at an undisclosed location, forbidden to speak to colleagues or relatives, Phi Thach said.
Also in September, five Funcinpec military officials were summoned for questioning about the rocket attack, but objected. They later maintained they had been cleared, though RCAF Intelligence Director Mol Roeup did not confirm the claim. On Sept 13, former Funcinpec resistance commander Nhiek Bun Chhay, now a senator, said his house was ransacked, his wife beaten.
CPP officials have denied involvement in a campaign of intimidation.
Monh Siyonn said he discussed Wednesday night’s abduction with Nguon Nhel, the CPP-appointed acting president of the National Assembly. Monh Siyonn said Nguon Nhel promised to request that district officials intervene in the matter.