An opposition party has written the country’s top legal bodies asking them to annul a summons for former parliamentarian Kem Sokha claiming the court orders are unconstitutional.
“We would like your excellency to intervene and order the municipal court to stop all accusations against Mr Kem Sokha to avoid having the government be ostracized by national and international legal experts,” a letter to Ministry of Justice Chem Snguon requested.
Sabou Bacha, the acting president of the Son Sann party, signed two letters dated Thursday, one to the Ministry of Justice and another to the Constitutional Council.
“Article 80 of the Constitution has been violated by the municipal court who have accused and threatened to arrest Mr Kem Sokha,” the letters maintained.
Article 80 guarantees parliamentarians immunity from detainment, indictment and arrest unless stripped of their status by a two-thirds vote in the National Assembly. The current Assembly has not yet met. Phnom Penh Municipal Court officials could not be reached Sunday.
The spokesman for the nation’s highest legal body, the Constitutional Council, said Sunday that the Constitution does not explain whether parliamentary immunity ends when a politician’s term expires.
“In Cambodia, we do not yet have a law that details about immunity [after an Assembly term is over”, Bin Chhin said.
He and another member of the Constitutional Council both said Sunday that they had not yet received the party’s letter.
The municipal court has issued two summons for Son Sann Party official Kem Sokha to answer questions about his role in recent opposition protests. Kem Sokha did not answer the first summons and appear for questioning Oct 1. The court reissued the summons ordering the outspoken government critic to appear in municipal court Oct 8.
Ly Vouch Leng, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Justice, said Sunday that she believed Kem Sokha’s immunity has already expired. But she added that according to the law if someone commits anything as a parliamentarian, they would have to be stripped of their immunity before he or she can be detained.
A Cambodian legal expert familiar with the National Assembly said Sunday that the Constitution stipulates that immunity remains in effect for all acts committed during a member’s term—even after the term has expired.
Kem Sokha was not available for comment Sunday. He has not been heard from publicly since the new Assembly was sworn-in Sept 24. Kem Sokha failed to win a seat in the July 26 elections.
A recent internal government memo said that Interior co-Minister Sar Kheng met last week with US Ambassador Kenneth Quinn to warn the US not to interfere in the court’s efforts to question Kem Sokha, according to The Associated Press.
A US Embassy official Sunday declined to comment on the memo and on why Sar Kheng expressed concern about the US. The official also would not say whether the embassy would or has ever offered protection for a Cambodian opposition politician.