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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Jailed opposition MP's health detoriating, say friends, family

Jailed opposition MP's health detoriating, say friends, family

Jailed opposition MP's health detoriating, say friends, family

jailed.jpg
jailed.jpg

Cheam Channy, center, leaves the National Assembly after having his parliamentary immunity stripped February 3.

The military judge investigating Cheam Channy said he has collected enough evidence

for a case against the jailed opposition MP, whose health is failing.

Judge Pork Pan told the Post May 4 that he has nearly completed his investigation

into charges that Channy was trying to raise a rebel army - the so-called "Committee

14".

"I have enough evidence against Channy," said Pan, adding that the trial

date would be set when his investigation was finished.

Channy, 44, has been detained in a military jail since his arrest on February 3.

He has been charged with organized crime, fraud and raising a rebel army for the

Sam Rainsy Party (SRP).

His arrest came after the National Assembly voted to strip three opposition MPs of

their parliamentary immunity, prompting party leader Sam Rainsy and Chea Poch to

flee the country.

Recent visitors have said Channy's health is rapidly deteriorating.

"I visited my husband on [April 30] and I was shocked that he looked very frightened,

exhausted, pale, and could not sleep," said Channy's wife, Chum Seang Leng,

28.

Channy asked his brother to plead with officials to free him for medical treatment.

"My brother has pains in his chest and trembling hands and legs," said

Cheam Channeang, who visited his brother May 5.

Keo Remy, a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian, visited Channy May 2. He said Channy's

detention was causing mental suffering and warned that Channy could die from heart

disease if he remained in custody.

Remy has written to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Norodom Ranariddh, president of the National

Assembly, and Dith Munty, president of the Supreme Court, asking for Channy's release

from pre-trial detention.

A request from Channy's lawyer, Mao Sophearith, to release his client on bail was

rejected by the military court and the Appeal Court and is now being considered by

the Supreme Court.

Lao Mong Hay, a veteran political observer, said Channy's arrest was illegal.

Even though Channy was charged with raising a rebel army, he is not a member of the

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, so the military court has no jurisdiction over his

case, Hay said.

Before Channy can be freed, however, the self-exiled Rainsy and Poch would have to

return to the country and build support for their colleague, Hay said.

"I think that it all depends on their encouragement," he said.

Rainsy and Poch face defamation charges over their allegations that Ranariddh accepted

a bribe from Hun Sen to form a coalition government last year.

Poch fled to the United States. Rainsy is in France, after travelling the world seeking

international support for the return of his and his colleague's parliamentary immunity.

Rainsy had committed to returning to Cambodia May 9 to join King Father Norodom Sihanouk

on the Supreme National Council of Border Affairs, but Sihanouk has postponed his

return due to ill health.

Hun Sen warned May 3 that if Rainsy returns and fails to obey three summonses to

court, he will be arrested.

On April 28, the PM told reporters at the Council of Ministers that Rainsy can safely

return to Cambodia but must face the defamation charges leveled against him.

"Come and continue the proceedings," Hun Sen said. "If [Rainsy] loses,

he will just pay for the compensation, but if he has made no mistake, then his parliamentary

immunity will be restored."

Kong Korm, acting president of the SRP, told the Post on April 29 that the removal

of parliamentary immunity from the three opposition members was meant to force the

SRP to cancel its annual congress scheduled on April 29-30.

The congress was expected to discuss reforms to the party but was cancelled because

of the absence of Rainsy.

"We understand that the removal of parliamentary immunity was not a personal

issue for those three people, but an attempt to create a voiceless opposition party

and [damage] democracy in Cambodia," Korm said.

"What we can do now is to boycott the meeting of the National Assembly and the

Senate," he said

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