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Lawmaker could lose immunity

SRP leader Mu Sochua says ready to fight case in court

GOVERNMENT officials have warned that Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua could face legal action and a possible suspension of her parliamentary immunity following last week's announcement she would sue Prime Minister Hun Sen for defamation.

Om Yentieng, one of Hun Sen's advisers and president of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, told Cambodian  media Friday that government lawyers would countersue Mu Sochua and that ruling party MPs would meet to suspend her immunity if the court found she was at fault.

Om Yentieng could not be reached for comment Sunday.

But Mu Sochua said Sunday her lawsuit would be filed at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday and that she was unconcerned about the government's response.

"I am not scared about Hun Sen countersuing me, but I would like the courts to remain independent in this case. I have enough proof about what Hun Sen said about me," she said.

"If I lose in the court and parliament strips my immunity, I would like them to strip Hun Sen's immunity as well because he is also a people's representative involved in the same case," she said.

Mu Sochua and her lawyer Kong Sam Onn announced Thursday that she would sue Hun Sen for defamation for calling her cheung klang, or "strong leg" - a term that she says is especially offensive towards women - during a speech in Kampot on April 4.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said government lawyers were discussing what action to take against the Kampot province MP, adding that her lawsuit was being used to attract sympathy from abroad.

"Mu Sochua's action is designed to bring outside pressure on Cambodia," he said.

But Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the threat to lift Mu Sochua's immunity undermined parliamentary guarantees that allow lawmakers to speak out forcefully on behalf of their constituents without fear of legal repercussions.

"[This] is nothing but an attempt to silence everybody, and it is a very clear example of just how the government responds to criticism," he said.

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