Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Immunity question moves to fore



Immunity question moves to fore

CNRP lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua
CNRP lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua seen here Tuesday after a rally turned violent. She was one of several charged yesterday. Vireak Mai

Immunity question moves to fore

The night before violence broke out at Freedom Park on Tuesday, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak took pains to assert that opposition lawmakers-elect, who have not taken their seats at the National Assembly in protest, do not have parliamentary immunity and could, therefore, have the law “imposed with force” against them.

Now, with five Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers-elect in custody, charged with serious offences, the issue of whether they have immunity is being put to the test.

Mu Sochua, one of those charged, yesterday cited her immunity in calling the detention “unconstitutional”.

CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha said that if the ruling party deems the current National Assembly legitimate, then it’s a double standard to not grant all elected assembly members immunity. He also said that before arresting or detaining lawmakers with immunity, two-thirds of parliamentary approval is needed.

Political analyst Kem Ley agreed: “It is contradicting what [the CPP] said before”.

The CNRP has long argued the assembly is illegitimate because only 68 ruling party lawmakers were sworn in despite the Constitution saying the assembly “shall comprise at least 120 members”.

But numerous analysts and lawyers have questioned that reasoning, arguing that by being elected, lawmakers become official “members” of the assembly, thereby satisfying the requirement, though they cannot commence their duties until they take their oaths.

A top lawyer from a local firm who requested anonymity said yesterday that because the constitution states that “members” of the assembly enjoy immunity, the CNRP should also have it.

“In my reading of Article 80 of the constitution, I believe that the lawmakers-elect should have their parliamentary immunity even though they have not sworn in, because literally they are members of the parliament,” he said.

But a Cambodian constitutional law expert at a respected local university, who also declined to be named, disagreed. Opposition lawmakers-elect would have to be sworn in to “confirm their validity”.

“In short, an elected member is not immediately an MP, not until provision of Article 82 of the constitution and Provision 2 and 3 of the internal rules of the National Assembly are observed,” he said.

The internal provisions involve elected candidates being declared as “full-rights MPs” by the Assembly president at the first meeting of every parliamentary session and having their names publicly posted to “determine the validity”.

Article 82 says that after opening, the National Assembly “shall declare the validity of each Member’s mandate”, with members having to take an oath.

MOST VIEWED

  • Seven positive for Covid-19, Hun Sen confirms local transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that there has been local community transmission of Covid-19. However, he urged the people not to panic even though the Ministry of Health announced the discovery of seven new cases on Sunday. Among the victims are Chhem Savuth, the director-general

  • PM confirms community transmission, calls for unity

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the public to stay calm, unite and follow the Ministry of Health guidelines after the wife of a senior official tested positive for Covid-19 in the Kingdom’s first case of community transmission. The case has drawn criticism

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there

  • Cambodia lauded for fight against Covid-19

    Cambodia has drawn global accolades for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a new report finding that the Kingdom has controlled the pandemic better than any other country in Asia. Dr Takeshi Kasai, director of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Western Pacific region,