Opposition lawmaker Ho Vann failed to show up in court yesterday, where he was summonsed for questioning over his alleged role in a demonstration that turned violent last July.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party MP for Phnom Penh said he was too busy to attend the hearing, citing “personal problems” that had prevented him from turning up.
“I have left this case for my lawyer, because I am busy. The next day I have some free time, I can go [to the court],” he explained.
Vann was arrested along with seven other CNRP lawmakers following the protest on July 15 aimed at opening the capital’s Freedom Park to the public.
When a group of district security guards attempted to break up the gathering, protestors reacted angrily – after having witnessed the untrained security force savagely beating attendees at previous demonstrations – and seriously injured several of the guards.
The lawmakers arrested after the protest were all charged with leading an “insurrection”, and while they were released from jail on July 22, 2014 – the day Prime Minister Hun Sen and CNRP president Sam Rainsy signed an agreement that saw the opposition politicians join parliament – they were re-summonsed to court on the same charges earlier this month.
Vann declined to explain yesterday what had kept him from attending the questioning session, referring the question to his lawyer, Ket Khy.
Khy said that he had advised Vann that he was unable to request that the judge postpone the hearing as he was told to because such a request must be lodged before the day of the scheduled questioning.
“Normally in criminal cases, the lawyer cannot appear as a representative [of the accused]. And I cannot go to jail instead of him,” he said.
He added that he would have to wait to see what action the court took before requesting any further postponements.
Judge Keo Mony, who interviewed the lawmakers in Prey Sar prison after their arrest, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
On May 11, CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua attended her hearing, but said she had exercised her right under parliamentary immunity rules to remain silent throughout the questioning.
Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator for local rights group Licadho, said the summonses were intended to disturb the work of the lawmakers and that they could not be expected to attend at such short notice.
“Lawmakers should not be summonsed as [the court] wishes. They should not have to attend in person. Their
summonsing bothers them,” he said.