Ranariddh: Nat’l Assembly To Vote on Immunity

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.


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