An international committee has ruled that the expulsion of three men from the CPP and the Senate was illegal.
The Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a Geneva-based organization of more than 100 nations including Cambodia, issued its decision Friday, according to internal correspondence from the group.
Former CPP senators Chhang Song, Phay Siphan and Pov Savath were expelled from the party and lost their parliamentary seats in December. Party officials said the three deviated from the party line in objecting to a bill on the detention of police suspects.
In its ruling, the committee notes that the Constitution says a senator’s term can only be terminated “in the case of the death of a Senator, resignation, or disqualification as a Senate member.”
Neither the Constitution nor the Senate’s internal rules spell out what should happen when a senator is expelled from his party. However, the committee notes that the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression to citizens and declares that lawmakers cannot be prosecuted for expressing their opinions.
The committee wrote, “in the absence of constitutional, legal or regulatory provisions regarding the expulsion or dismissal of a member of the Senate on the grounds that the political party to which he or she belongs has expelled him, the dismissal from the Senate of Mr Chhang Song, Mr Siphan Phay and Mr Pou Savath is illegal.”
The ruling also urges the Senate to reconsider the expulsions. It alludes only briefly to the case of Sam Rainsy, who lost his seat in the National Assembly when he was expelled from Funcinpec in 1994.
It does not mention the cases of Son Chhay, an opposition member of the National Assembly who was fired from his commission chairmanship, allegedly for violating parliamentary rules; or Keo San, who was fired from the CPP and the Senate in January after questioning the budget of the Royal Palace.
While party officials say the four recent firings were necessary to maintain discipline, critics say the dismissals add up to a steady erosion of democracy and open discussion. The four senators fired in recent months all lived abroad—in the US, Australia or France—prompting some to speculate whether the party is purging foreign influences from its ranks. The Inter-Parliamentary Union will take up the issue in its full session next month.