Rainsy Plans for Imprisoned Official to Become Freed Lawmaker

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Friday that the CNRP would attempt to secure the release of detained CNRP official Meach Sovan­nara by promoting him to become a lawmaker so that he can enjoy parliamentary immunity.

Mr. Sovannara, the head of the CNRP’s information department, was arrested in Phnom Penh on No­vember 11 on an outstanding ar­rest warrant for “joining an insurrection,” a charge related to a violent clash during a protest near Freedom Park on July 15. 

“We will arrange that Meach So­vannara take up his position as a member of parliament because now he has not been elected yet, but there is somebody else that he could replace,” Mr. Rainsy said.

In order for him to become a lawmaker, one of the CNRP’s two lawmakers from Banteay Meanchey province, where Mr. Sovannara was the third-ranked candidate in last year’s parliamentary elections, would have to resign.

Mr. Rainsy said that Yont Tharo, currently the second member of parliament [MP] in the province, would be asked to take the hit.

“[W]e are negotiating with him, convincing him to save his colleague so that we will find another suitable position for that MP with appropriate rank,” Mr. Rainsy said.

But Mr. Rainsy said the plan was sure to work, citing the situation of seven CNRP lawmakers who were also arrested over the July 15 clash and released after he signed a deal on July 22 with Prime Minister Hun Sen ending the opposition’s boycott of the National Assembly.

“This is the law…when you have immunity associated with your lawmaker position, then court proceedings must stop,” he said. “If the person is in jail, he or she must be released.”

In a speech on Thursday, Mr. Hun Sen specifically said that the July 22 “did not end the cases in court,” and said the lawmakers “will be brought to trial if the im­munity expires.”

Prominent human rights attorney Sok Sam Oeun said, according to the law, the opposition’s plan should work.

“I think they could do that be­cause the crime is not a felony and is not a flagrant crime,” he said, referring to the types of crimes for which parliamentary immunity may be revoked.

However, Ministry of Interior Sec­retary of State Prum Sokha, who has been at the fore of political ne­gotiations with the CNRP over the past year, said it would be premature to say whether the move will lead to Mr. Sovannara’s release.

“It’s too early to say on this one,” he said.

[email protected]

Related Stories

Latest News