The European Parliament has called for a full investigation into an incident in which opposition leader Sam Rainsy uprooted wooden posts near the border with Vietnam last month, an action that saw the National Assembly strip him of his parliamentary immunity in a session on Monday, the SRP president said Wednesday.
Sam Rainsy addressed a special session of the Brussels-based parliament on Tuesday, raising his party’s concerns about issues such as human rights, judicial reform, the recent accelerated spate of land disputes and the suspension of his immunity earlier this week.
[The European parliament] demands that there be a proper investigation.
During a Buddhist ceremony in Svay Rieng province’s Chantrea district on October 26, Sam Rainsy helped uproot six wooden border posts that villagers said were placed illegally by Vietnamese authorities.
“As a matter of principle, [the European Parliament] demands that there be a proper investigation,” Sam Rainsy said by phone from Brussels on Wednesday.
“They want there to be an investigation that asks people who are victims [of Vietnamese encroachments] to act as witnesses to seek the truth.”
He said the European Union was monitoring the human rights situation in Cambodia closely, and that parliamentarians had expressed solidarity following the removal of his immunity, which has paved the way for legal action stemming from the border post incident in Svay Rieng.
The government should not take “such quick action”, he cited parliamentarians as saying, without a proper basis for its allegations.
“The European Parliament … said representatives must have the right to speak and the right to defend the people,” Sam Rainsy added.
The comments from European parliamentarians echo recent local criticism of the government over Sam Rainsy’s immunity. In a statement issued on Monday, four leading nongovernmental organisations said the action was “yet another blow to Cambodia’s faltering democracy”.
When contacted on Wednesday, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan brushed off Sam Rainsy’s appeals to the European Parliament, saying he was well accustomed to the opposition leader’s appeals to overseas countries. “Sam Rainsy is Sam Rainsy.… He never changes,” Phay Siphan said. “He always gives wrong descriptions of the situation to foreigners.”
He said the government did not mind countries describing Cambodia’s shortcomings, but that they should also look at what was being done to solve problems.
“They should address the ways in which the nation is trying to address these problems. We are sorry that foreigners are misled by Sam Rainsy,” he said.
In a statement issued in the European Parliament on September 7, the European Commission expressed its concerns about “recent restrictions to political freedoms in Cambodia”, pledging to “closely” monitor the situation in connection with the embassies of EU member states.