National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh announced Wednesday that the Assembly will likely vote to strip opposition leader Sam Rainsy of his parliamentary immunity today to allow several defamation lawsuits against him to proceed.
Prince Ranariddh, who is also head of Funcinpec, said the Assembly will also vote to strip the immunity of two other Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians, Chea Poch and Cheam Channy, who also face legal action.
“If I can avoid [stripping them of immunity], I will avoid it, but this is their problem with the law,” Prince Ranariddh told reporters outside the Assembly. “If the National Assembly raises the issue tomorrow, we will strip their immunities for a short time to let the courts question them,” he said.
Sam Rainsy and Chea Poch face libel suits launched by Funcinpec for alleging that Prince Ranariddh took bribes to join a coalition government with the CPP last July.
Sam Rainsy faces another defamation suit launched by the CPP and Prime Minister Hun Sen for alleging that the government was plotting to kill several prominent political figures following the assassination of union leader Chea Vichea in January 2004.
The military court is seeking to question Cheam Channy after the government accused him of organizing an armed force—yet the opposition maintains he was heading a legitimate “shadow Cabinet” to oversee the military activities.
Prince Ranariddh on Wednesday did not say who would table the motion to vote on stripping the opposition lawmakers’ immunity.
“It is not [about] a personal problem between Samdech Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh, it is between them and the court,” Prince Ranariddh said.
But, he added: “I never defamed Sam Rainsy. [He] defamed me…. He should have thought before he spoke. If he did that, there should not have been any problem.”
For days, the Sam Rainsy Party has been expressing alarm that Assembly leaders were plotting to lift their immunity as a means of quashing the opposition.
“They hide information because they are afraid the international community will put pressure on them,” Sam Rainsy said Friday.
Sam Rainsy said he and his fellow opposition party members fear arrest if they no longer have parliamentary protection.
Under Article 80 of the Constitution, “No Assembly member shall be prosecuted, detained or arrested because of opinions expressed during the exercise of his (her) duties.”
But the Constitution states that parliamentary immunity can be waived by a vote of two-thirds of the Assembly.
In November 1995, the National Assembly stripped Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh of his parliamentary immunity after he was accused of plotting to kill Prime Minister Hun Sen. Prince Sirivudh was arrested and jailed the next day.
Prince Ranariddh told reporters Wednesday that removing the opposition lawmakers of their immunity would not cause any political unrest. “The issue will not affect the national stability because the cases are related to the penal case and the court,” he said.