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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Funcinpec's Socheat ignores court summons

Funcinpec's Socheat ignores court summons

Funcinpec legislator Ok Socheat declined to appear in court on December 5 to answer

allegations that he had incited members of his party to tear down opposition Sam

Rainsy Party (SRP) signs across the country. The SRP filed a complaint against him

on October 22.

"This summons threatens freedom of expression," said Socheat, who is also

on the party's Steering Committee. "As I have parliamentary immunity, I should

not appear in front of the court without the instruction of the National Assembly

(NA).

"The action of the opposition is contrary to democracy and will allow the communists

to become stronger," he continued. "[Fun-cinpec and the SRP] are the same

- democrats should not attack each other."

The case arose after Socheat called on party officials to remove SRP signs following

a call by party leader Sam Rainsy for royalists to defect to him ahead of the general

election in July 2003.

SRP secretary-general Eng Chhay Eang said Socheat's words would incite political

violence and destroy people's property, and were an offense punishable by up to five

years in jail under UNTAC law.

"We know Socheat has parliamentary immunity, but our lawsuit is a message that

all people have the right to complain if such individuals want to incite others,"

said Chhay Eang.

Both parties have claimed that thousands of each others' members have switched loyalties

since the February commune elections.

"We have never tried to persuade active members of any party [to join], but

if people want to unite with us, there is no reason to deny that, because this is

right of anyone in politics," Chhay Eang said.

The prosecutor told the Post on December 5 that he would write to the NA to request

its approval for Socheat to appear. No further action would be taken until the case

was investigated further.

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