Son Sann Party Protests Kem Sokha Summons

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.


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