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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Immunity question delayed

Immunity question delayed

NATIONAL Assembly Chairman Chea Sim and his deputy Loy Sim Chheang have agreed to

delay a request for lifting co-Minister of Interior You Hockry's parliamentary immunity,

saying that debating it would complicate problems now facing the country.

"We decided to suspend the matter for a while, so [as] not to pile up problems,"

Chheang said, referring to the political crisis involving rifts within Funcinpec,

which has forced the National Assembly session to be postponed.

The decision was reached following a new request by the Municipal Court to strip

Hockry of his immunity, so he can be questioned about the mishandling of drugs about

eight months ago.

The request was signed by the court's Prosecutor Kann Chhoeun, which Chheang said

he received on Apr 22. He added that in a consultation with Chea Sim, the latter

agreed to have Hockry's affair suspended.

"The situation has lost stability. Samdech Chea Sim shared my opinion that ...

by delaying it we can concentrate on finding solution to existing problems,"

Chheang said.

The Funcinpec party's secretary general said he was not siding with Hockry, but said

that debating the latter's affair would add confusion to a political climate already

chaotic enough.

Hockry has been blamed for the loss of 2.25 kg of heroin the Municipal anti-drug

police seized in an undercover operation last year. The weight of heroin was originally

believed to be 5 kg, but after leaving Hockry's office where it had been kept for

the court, the weight had been reduced to 2.75 kg. The co-minister has maintained

that the confusion was caused by the drugs being weighed in pounds rather than kilograms.

A similar request for permission to act on the co-minister was sought by the court

at that time, however it was blocked by First Premier Norodom Ranariddh's refusal

to approve it.

The recent busts of marijuana and drugs apparently have revived Hockry's case and

the court's new request appears to signal that his political career is still hanging

by a thread.

Second Premier Hun Sen has adamantly insisted on having Hockry questioned about the

missing heroin and having an arrest warrant served on Gen. Po Lyda, an anti-drug

police officer also implicated in the same case.

He has called on Ranariddh to approve the court's request. But the First Premier,

while criticizing lack of evidence to support the move, demanded a guarantee of neutrality

of the court, which is run mostly by judges appointed by the CPP.

No firm date has been set for the resumption of the National Assembly session, thus

its agenda has not been set.

Chheang indicated, however, that Hockry's case is unlikely to be dropped. He suggested

that both prime ministers demonstrate "a true desire" - not politics -

to resolve the issue.

"The Second Prime Minister pushes [lifting Hockry's immunity], while the First

Prime Minister proposes that everything must follow proper procedures. So it is difficult

for us, the National Assembly, to act," Chheang said.

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