Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday said that opposition leader Sam Rainsy should pay a fine imposed by the National Election Committee or he will definitely have his parliamentary immunity stripped by the National Assembly.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education, Hun Sen warned that his ruling CPP had more than enough lawmakers to vote to strip Sam Rainsy of his immunity.
“Now he refuses to pay the fine. Now [the court] has requested to remove his immunity,” Hun Sen said. “It is obvious that in order to lift an immunity we need only two-thirds [of Assembly lawmakers]. It is not difficult to lobby anyone; it will be smooth. If you realize this yourself, please pay the fine. Otherwise your immunity will be lifted and it will be difficult for you to escape.”
In August, the NEC issued a $2,500 fine against Sam Rainsy for allegedly insulting the CPP during the campaign period ahead of the July national election.
Sam Rainsy has steadfastly refused to pay the fine, saying that he had done nothing wrong and that the NEC decision was politically motivated.
The matter has since moved to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, which recently sent a request to CPP Assembly President Heng Samrin through the Justice Ministry seeking the removal of Sam Rainsy’s parliamentary immunity.
This constitutionally guaranteed immunity makes it impossible for the courts to prosecute a lawmaker, and it can only be removed by a two-thirds vote of the National Assembly—or at least 82 votes.
The CPP currently has 90 lawmakers in the Assembly.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Tuesday that he expects that the Assembly’s permanent committee, of which he is a member, will take up the matter of Sam Rainsy’s immunity during a meeting scheduled for Thursday.
Sam Rainsy said by telephone that the prime minister had raised the matter of the fine because he is concerned about the recently formed Alliance for Democratic Change—an opposition bloc formed by the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party.
“Hun Sen was trying to put pressure on the opposition movement,” he said Tuesday.
“He provokes problems against the opposition. I am not concerned about such threats; I will stick with the legal process,” he added.
Sam Rainsy—who previously had his immunity stripped in 2005 over a defamation suit brought by then-Funcinpec President Norodom Ranariddh—has repeatedly said that he has the means to pay the fine but will not do so until he has exhausted all legal options.