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Critics slam PM lawsuit

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Human Rights Watch, local unions and civil society groups condemn the govt's move to strip Mu Sochua's immunity.

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN

Civil society group members sign a letter Monday to National Assembly President Heng Samrin against lifting Mu Sochua’s immunity.

THE attempt to lift opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua's parliamentary immunity to allow Prime Minister Hun Sen's lawsuit against her to proceed met with a chorus of local and international criticism Tuesday, prompting the government to claim there was nothing illegal about the move.

"Mu Sochua is not Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar," Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People's Party and a member of National Assembly's Permanent Committee, told the Post on Tuesday.

"We are not doing anything illegal. You must understand this [prodedure] is not new. We have done it since Sam Rainsy was a minister of finance [and] we lifted Prince Norodom Ranariddh's parliamentary immunity," he said.

But on Tuesday, the Cambodian Confederation of Unions issued a statement saying its members, numbering some 85,000 workers, were deeply concerned over the attempt to strip the Kampot lawmaker of her immunity.

The attempt has no legal grounds, and the government should concern itself with easing the plight of the Kingdom's workers in difficult economic times, not personally motivated lawsuits, the statement said.

  Hun Sen has a long history of trying to muzzle Cambodia's political opposition.

It added that the union would organise mass protests if the National Assembly proceeded.

Criticism from overseas

"Hun Sen has a long history of trying to muzzle Cambodia's political opposition and undermine the independence of the legal profession," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement released by the New York-based watchdog late Monday.

"This most recent case should be ringing alarm bells among Cambodia's donors, particularly those who fund judicial and legal reform".

"These lawsuits are a clear attempt to intimidate the opposition and prevent members of parliament from exercising free expression," Adams said.

A decision on whether Mu Sochua will lose her immunity is expected Friday when the National Assembly votes on the issue.

Also Tuesday, around 40 civil society groups gathered at the offices of the NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia to seek intervention on the immunity issue.

"We do not side with the opposition party, but we don't want to see freedom of expression silenced," said Thida Khus, director of the Cambodian NGO Silaka.

"We do not want to see the laws being enforced unequally. One side [Mu Sochua] was dismissed, and one side [Hun Sen] was allowed to go ahead. This makes justice seem unbalanced."

But Cheam Yeap said the civil society concern came too late, as the National Assembly's Permanent Committee was already considering the matter. 

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