Opposition leader Sam Rainsy will lose his right to run for office as well as his lawmaker’s salary unless he is pardoned by King Norodom Sihamoni before mid-March, officials said Tuesday.
The National Assembly and the National Election Committee have threatened to remove Sam Rainsy’s name from the list of parliamentarians if he does not receive a royal pardon within 75 days of his sentencing, officials said.
Sam Rainsy was sentenced in absentia to 18 months in prison on Dec 22 after being found guilty of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen and Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said that in order to be a parliamentary candidate, one must first be listed as a voter. Convicted criminals do not have the right to vote in Cambodia, though until the 75 days are up, Sam Rainsy is not considered a convicted criminal.
Sam Rainsy must either serve his sentence or receive a pardon in order to return to the National Assembly, Tep Nitha said.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, a member of the assembly’s permanent committee and chairman of the finance and banking commission, said the committee will soon convene in order to curtail Sam Rainsy’s salary.
“To act according to the law, we must cut his salary. He doesn’t work, so we don’t have to pay him,” Cheam Yeap said, adding that the paycheck would be forwarded to the National Bank.
Som Chandina, Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, said the move was unconstitutional.
But Sam Rainsy Party Acting President Kong Korm said the announcement did not come as a surprise.
“It is the same as in Cheam Channy’s case. It happens as we anticipated,” Kong Korm said of the opposition party member who was sentenced to seven years in prison in August for forming a so-called illegal armed force, and has been taken off of the assembly’s payroll.
“The National Assembly leaders’ standing doesn’t protect the lawmakers—they serve the purpose of the government,” Kong Korm said.