Rainsy Cautious as Hun Sen Threatens to Jail Lawmakers

CNRP President Sam Rainsy would not comment Tuesday on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s declaration that seven lawmakers from his opposition party may still be tried for “leading an insurrection” despite having parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

Mr. Hun Sen said Monday that the CNRP lawmakers, who were bailed from prison on July 22 to allow them to swear in, will still face jail if the opposition does not stop verbally attacking the government, as the charges were laid before parliamentary immunity applied.

“The seven lawmakers will still be jailed because you received immunity after you were charged,” the prime minister warned the CNRP.

Asked about the comments, which appear to conflict with the CPP’s position at the time of the July 22 political deal that ended the CNRP’s parliamentary boycott, Mr. Rainsy declined to comment.

“I want to calm down the situation to avoid any further confrontation. I am now doing my best to diffuse tensions,” the opposition leader said.

Asked if he thought Mr. Hun Sen’s current position conflicted with the CPP’s stance during the July negotiations, Mr. Rainsy reiterated his desire not to provoke the situation.

“Many lawyers have expressed their opinion and it is not my job to repeat their legal arguments. It is my role, I believe, to avoid any further confrontations, and I do not need to comment any further on this issue,” he said.

CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua, who was among the seven charged with “leading an insurrection” over a July 15 protest that descended into a street brawl, also declined to comment on the prime minister’s remarks.

Prum Sokha, an Interior Ministry secretary of state who was the CPP’s spokesman for the July 22 agreement, declined to comment Tuesday. But on the day of the deal, he said the seven CNRP lawmakers would not be prosecuted.

“They will be released temporarily, on bail, to let them swear in, and then the National Assembly will consider their immunity and ask the court to drop the case. But we need to get through that legal process,” Mr. Sokha said on the night of the deal.

The following month, lawyers for CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha, who was not charged with “insurrection” but received a court summons for questioning over the case, said Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Keo Mony had refused to even question Mr. Sokha due to his immunity as a lawmaker.

“He informed us that he couldn’t question either us or our client since he is a lawmaker, and therefore he would be wrong for having questioned a lawmaker,” said Meng Sopheary, a lawyer for the CNRP, on August 11.

Yet Ms. Sopheary also said at the time that the court had not yet dropped the charges against the lawmakers, but was merely not actively pursuing them.

“The investigating judge, Keo Mony, told us that he sent a report to the Justice Ministry seeking an opinion from the National Assembly about the case,” she said.

Judge Mony could not be reached Tuesday.

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