Opposition May Drop Lawsuits Over Immunity

The Sam Rainsy Party has of­fered to drop its lawsuits against Prime Minister Hun Sen and Na­tional Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh in the hopes the Assembly will restore parliamentary immunity to three of the opposition party’s lawmakers, party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said Sunday.

The opposition party has two lawsuits pending in Cambodian courts against the two leaders—one charging that Hun Sen was behind the 1997 grenade attack on an opposition-led rally in Phnom Penh, and the second alleging that Prince Ranariddh was responsible for corruption related to the construction of the new As­sembly building.

“We want to finish the problem,” Eng Chhay Eang said. “We want the National Assembly to re­store the immunity [of the three opposition lawmakers] and re­lease Cheam Channy.”

Eng Chhay Eang said the party took its cue to drop the lawsuits from retired King Norodom Siha­nouk, who on Friday suggested that the ruling parties restore parliamentary immunity to Sam Rainsy, Cheam Channy and Chea Poch. The three were stripped of their immunity in a controversial Assembly vote on Feb 3.

While Sam Rainsy and Chea Poch stand accused of defaming Prince Ranariddh, who is also the leader of Funcinpec, by alleging the prince took bribes, Cheam Channy remains detained, accused of forming an illegal armed force, which the opposition maintains was merely a watchdog group to oversee government military activities.

CPP spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said Sunday that his party will consider dropping its own lawsuit against the Sam Rainsy Party if the opposition retracts its lawsuits first.

The CPP’s defamation suit against Sam Rainsy stems from allegations by the opposition leader that the Hun Sen-led government was plotting to kill a number of political leaders following the fatal shooting of union leader Chea Vichea last year.

“We want to see the Sam Rainsy Party drop its lawsuits first because so far, the party only claimed to do so, but it has not done it,” Khieu Kanharith said. “The Sam Rainsy Party is the one who ignited the gasoline first.”

Funcinpec spokesman Tuot Lux said Sunday that Prince Ranariddh has not yet made any decision as to whether he would pursue legal proceedings against the opposition.

“Before [Funcinpec] wanted the Sam Rainsy Party to apologize and the party would drop the lawsuits, but now I do not know yet [what Funcinpec will do],” he said.

Eng Chhay Eang said though his party will drop its lawsuits, it will not apologize to the CPP or Funcinpec.

“We have done nothing wrong. We won’t apologize,” Eng Chhay Eang said.

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