Seven opposition lawmakers have been re-summoned over their alleged roles in leading an “insurrection” against the government following the 2013 general election, in a move that activists viewed as a systematic swipe at the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
The group – comprising Mu Sochua, Ho Vann, Long Ry, Keo Phirum, Men Sothavarin, Real Camerin and Nuth Romduol – was charged with inciting violence during a protest near Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park on July 15, 2014, during which several security guards were beaten by opposition supporters. During the tumult, the lawmakers were hauled away in handcuffs and detained at Prey Sar prison, where they were questioned by judge Keo Mony while in custody.
Phirum, a lawmaker in Kratie province, said yesterday that although he has yet to receive a formal summons, police had phoned him and informed him that he must appear in court on Friday, May 22. “I have clarified [my stance], but they have not listened – they only act according to orders,” he said.
In Kampong Thom lawmaker Men Sovatharin’s view, the summonses are simply aimed at ending these cases so Cambodia’s newfound “culture of dialogue” between CNRP leader Sam Rainsy and the Cambodian People’s Party’s Prime Minister Hun Sen can progress unimpeded by lingering legal suits. He has been scheduled to appear in court on May 27.
“They must all be completed; the court has [proceeded] to end them [all at once],” he said. “They have not arrested us – they have just summoned us for questioning.”
However, Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for the human rights group Licadho, said the summons were not necessary, adding that they went against the lawmakers’ parliamentary immunity.
“If they want to end [the cases], they don’t need to summon [anybody] – they can just acquit. They issue summons . . . to close the investigation and send the case to a trial judge,” he said.
Ket Khy, the lawyer for five of the lawmakers, echoed concern over the infringement of his clients’ immunity, but said that in political cases, “politics are more [important] than the law”.
But Mu Sochua, who is scheduled to appear in court today, said she just wants a fair trial despite her immunity.
“If the court . . . is contrary to the spirit of the law, then let the citizens judge.”