Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who faces arrest and jail upon his return from abroad tonight, was removed as a member of the National Assembly this morning, with a spokesman for the parliament citing the warrant released for his arrest last week as justification.
The Assembly’s standing committee, which the ruling CPP dominates with seven members to the opposition’s six, met in the morning to discuss the impending arrest of Mr. Rainsy, who is scheduled to return to Cambodia from South Korea at about 10 p.m.
The committee approved Mr. Rainsy’s arrest over a previously unenforced 2011 court decision jailing the opposition leader for two years over a defamation case brought by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in 2008.
A statement released after the standing committee meeting by National Assembly President Heng Samrin then stripped Mr. Rainsy of his role as a lawmaker.
“Article 1. His Excellency Sam Rainsy has fully lost all rights, prerogatives and membership of the National Assembly for the constituency of Kompong Cham province in the fifth mandate,” it said.
“Article 2. The secretary general of the National Assembly’s general secretariat must implement and disseminate this announcement within the National Assembly and disseminate it publicly.”
“Article 3. This statement has validity as of its date of signing,” the statement concluded.
National Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun said Mr. Rainsy, who ostensibly held immunity from prosecution as an elected lawmaker, lost his position due to the criminal conviction handed down in 2011.
“If you look at the rules of the statute on lawmakers, Article 14 says that all lawmakers or members of parliament who have a verdict that is effective and [are] sentenced to prison, they lose all their rights,” Mr. Vun said.
CNRP lawmaker Keo Phirum said the opposition’s delegation of 55 lawmakers would be meeting at 2 p.m. today to discuss recent events.
“There’s nothing we can say about this. They just want to do whatever they want, whether it’s bad for the country or not. What can I say?” he said.
Mr. Rainsy, who has habitually fled to France after being convicted of seemingly political crimes in the past, has pledged to return to Cambodia tonight and face arrest for the first time in his career.
The government this morning also announced the creation of a special committee to arrest Mr. Rainsy when he arrives in Cambodia, with two “working groups” for Phnom Penh and Siem Reap province, where Mr. Rainsy was originally scheduled to land tonight.
Chaired by Interior Ministry secretary of state Em Sam An, the committee’s vice chairmen are National Police chief Neth Savoeun, immigration department director Sok Phal and Kuy Bunsorn, the director of the general department of prisons. It also includes deputy National Police chief Chhay Sinarith and Phnom Penh police chief Chuon Sovann as regular members.