National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh reiterated Thursday that the stripping of parliamentary immunity from opposition leader Sam Rainsy and two lawmakers was a legal issue and not an attempt to stifle political opponents of the government.
Prince Ranariddh also accused unnamed countries of interfering in Cambodia’s internal affairs and warned opposition lawmakers to cease their boycott of the Assembly or face salary cuts.
Prince Ranariddh’s comments followed a meeting with British Ambassador David Reader, who presented a European Union declaration issued Feb 10 that urged the country’s political leaders to work together in the interests of the Cambodian people.
“The Ambassador said that defamation was a personal problem, but I told him that defamation is stated in the law,” Prince Ranariddh told reporters.
“The law was established to not only protect Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Prime Minister Hun Sen, but all people,” Prince Ranariddh said.
Referring to the EU declaration, Prince Ranariddh said that “only a few countries interfere with Cambodian affairs.”
“I think that some countries that offer us aid, such as France and Japan, have not raised their concerns because they regard this issue as an internal affair,” he added.
Issued following the Assembly’s suspension of immunity for Sam Rainsy, Chea Poch and Cheam Chhany, the EU declaration notes that the current situation was not favorable “to the national reconciliation.”
Describing their meeting as cordial, frank and wide-ranging, Ambassador Reader said he re-emphasized the points made in the EU’s declaration—points which are backed by 25 EU member countries.
Also on Thursday, the opposition party launched yet another lawsuit, this time a defamation suit against Prince Ranariddh for allegedly accusing Sam Rainsy of being behind the Jan 2002 anti-Thai riots in Phnom Penh.
Sam Rainsy Party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang also said Thursday that opposition lawmakers would discuss ending their Assembly boycott at a meeting next week.
With Sam Rainsy continuing his tour of European capitals to drum up condemnation of the government, Cambodian-Americans sent a petition with 2,000 signatures to US President George W Bush calling for Washington to prohibit parliamentarians who stripped the opposition members of their immunity from entering the US.
Sent Monday, it also called on the US to impose sanctions on Cambodia, to reopen the FBI investigation into the 1997 grenade attack on Sam Rainsy and demanded that immunity be reinstated for the opposition members.
“Mr President, we urge you to stand with the oppressed of Cambodia,” the petition, received Thursday, stated.