THE head of the Senate has rejected a request from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party that its embattled president be allowed to return to Cambodia under renewed parliamentary immunity.
In a letter, Senate President Chea Sim wrote that the body’s hands were tied due to the Kingdom’s constitutional separation of powers.
“The Senate will not be able to intervene with the government in order to drop the complaints … because the complaints against HE Sam Rainsy are under the jurisdiction of the judiciary, which is separate from the legislative branch and executive branch,” said the letter, addressed to the SRP’s Acting President, Kong Korm.
Chea Sim’s letter, dated Friday, came in response to a request from Kong Korm on September 11, which said the Senate had a “duty” to try to broker a political compromise that would pave the way for Sam Rainsy’s return.
The SRP leader, who is in self-imposed exile in Europe, was sentenced to two years in jail after an incident in October last year in which he helped villagers uproot wooden demarcation poles near the Vietnamese border.
A verdict on two more charges – brought against him after he released maps showing what he claims are Vietnamese territorial encroachments – is set to be handed down at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday.
Yesterday, Sam Rainsy issued an appeal to “parliamentarians of all countries”, saying that his only crime was an “unyielding denunciation of corruption and human rights abuses” and an “unwavering defence of the people who have elected me as their representative”.
Senate Secretary General Oum Sarith declined to comment yesterday, but Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that wiping away Sam Rainsy’s charges would set a “bad precedent” for Cambodia, despite the use of such arrangements in the past.
“Sam Rainsy wants to make a wave as a celebrity in the media, but he has to take the time to show that he has principles,” he said.
Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, said that unlike earlier cases, where Sam Rainsy’s spats with the government were resolved through compromises, officials were showing “no real urgency” to broker his return.
“I hope there will be some sign of resolution and Sam Rainsy will be able to come back,” he said. “I hope the issue can be resolved quickly.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG