Rainsy Heads to Europe; Kem Sokha Returns

As opposition leader Sam Rainsy heads to Brussels today in the hopes of coaxing the European Union to put pressure on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha will return to Phnom Penh with two CNRP lawmakers who were beaten last month.

Mr. Rainsy was removed from his position in the National Assembly on November 15, three days after an arrest warrant was issued for him in relation to a 2011 defamation conviction. He has since remained abroad with Mr. Sokha, who was himself ousted as a parliamentary leader last month.

CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith said Mr. Sokha arrived in Bangkok on Monday and planned to return to Phnom Penh today with lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea, who have been recovering in a Thai hospital after being beaten by pro-CPP protesters last month.

“He left Manila heading straight to Bangkok to see the two injured [lawmakers] and he is scheduled to return with them,” Mr. Ponhearith said, adding that a special meeting of the CNRP would then be held.

“Tomorrow, shortly after [Mr. Sokha’s] arrival, there will be a national meeting with every provincial leader across the country to discuss…the general political situation and our future action plan,” he said.

Mr. Ponhearith said that Mr. Rainsy’s current exile abroad and Mr. Sokha’s removal as the National Assembly’s vice president would not specifically be discussed, with party strategy the main focus of the meeting.

“Mainly, it will be about the current political situation and the development of solutions, such as through diplomatic policy, the culture of dialogue and preparations to contest the 2017 and 2018 elections,” he said.

Mr. Sokha on Monday posted photographs to Facebook of himself meeting with the injured lawmakers at a hospital in Bangkok, with the pair appearing in far better shape than a month ago, when they were dragged from their cars and repeatedly kicked and stomped on.

Yet Mr. Ponhearith said that Mr. Chamroeun would require a metal rod in his arm for some time until he recovered completely, while Mr. Saphea had been left with lasting injuries to his ears that would impair his hearing.

Three soldiers have been arrested for carrying out the attacks on the two lawmakers. Earlier this month, the two lawmakers filed an attempted murder complaint with the municipal court against the protesters who attacked them, without naming specific suspects.

CPP members held a meeting of the National Assembly’s standing committee on Monday morning, discussing the upcoming schedule of sittings to be held while parliament remains in session.

Opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang, who is a member of the minority CNRP delegation on the committee, said the next sitting would be on Monday, but that the CNRP may not attend.

“It is difficult for our lawmakers to go and fulfill their work due to two reasons: the first is safety of the lawmakers. As we know, the two lawmakers were beaten up on October 26,” Mr. Chhay Eang said.

“Only three perpetrators came to confess and if we go to work at the National Assembly, we are afraid that such bad incidents could occur [again],” he added. “Secondly, we are not happy with a National Assembly that has violated the law.”

The CNRP holds that Mr. Rainsy’s ouster from the Assembly and Mr. Sokha’s removal as the body’s deputy president violated constitutional safeguards protecting the status of elected lawmakers in parliament.

“We want to meet to discuss between the two parties in order to solve these issues before we go to work,” Mr. Chhay Eang said. “We need to discuss again the safety of the lawmakers and violations of the law.”

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