Cheam Channy, a former lawmaker with the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and later the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), died on Thursday from a brain tumour that had spread to his torso.
He was 57.Mut Chantha, the ex-chief of bailed former CNRP president Kem Sokha’s cabinet, announced Channy’s passing on his Facebook page on Thursday, in a post leaving his condolences.
Chantha said he was “extremely sad” and shocked to hear that Channy had died.
“We really regret to hear the extremely sad news of the loss of HE Cheam Chany, who was a patriot for almost his entire life."
“His Excellency greatly devoted himself for the sake of the nation against invasion by foreign countries and for the furthering of democracy and rights and the freedom of Cambodian citizens.
“He never retreated because he wished to see Cambodian citizens having full rights and freedoms, justice and real democracy. The loss of His Excellency Cheam Channy is the loss of a wise patriot,” he wrote.
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath told The Post on Thursday that Channy had a brain tumour that had reached the surgical stage.
“Recently, Channy had complained of a stomachache, and when he went for a checkup, he found his tumour had spread to his intestines.”
Chanrath described Channy as a lawmaker who devoted himself physically and mentally, and was active at the grassroots level.
He said Channy “dared to speak out and he wasn’t afraid to do many jobs in his capacity as a lawmaker”.
“He was popular with grassroots people, and many activists supported him and liked him,” he said.
In 2005, Channy was arrested on charges of organised crime and fraud, as well as a military charge of disobeying orders.
On February 3 of that year, he was stripped of his parliamentary immunity after a National Assembly vote.
Fellow parliamentarian Chea Poch and party leader Sam Rainsy, both facing possible charges of criminal defamation, fled the Kingdom.
Channy stayed and was arrested by military police. He was charged by a military court with offences relating to accusations he had created an illegal army for the SRP.
At trial on August 8, the prosecutor argued that Channy’s actions had endangered national security. The court sentenced him to seven years in prison.
Channy’s arrest and detention met with widespread international condemnation.
On February 2, 2006, his sentence was reduced from seven years in jail to three by King Norodom Sihamoni.
Four days later, he received a full royal pardon and was released from prison.
National Assembly secretary-general Leng Penglong said that, according to the law, parliament had no obligation to arrange a memorial service for lawmakers who were removed from their position.
He added: “But we won’t oppose it if anyone, including lawmakers, want to attend his funeral. As we used to be friends and were friendly towards each other, [we] can go to pay respects to his spirit.
“But according to the law, we [at the National Assembly] cannot arrange any ceremony for a lawmaker who has been stripped of his position.”