The National Assembly and the Ministry of Justice are passing the buck on the issue of who is responsible for restoring the parliamentary immunity of opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, saying each institution is awaiting an authorisation letter from the other.
Earlier this month, the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian called for her immunity to be restored, after the resolution of her high-profile legal spat with Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly’s Banking and Finance Committee, said today that the parliament cannot restore Mu Sochua’s immunity unless the Justice Ministry requests it first.
“The court requested firstly that [her immunity] be suspended, so when it happens the court must inform the parliament through the Justice Minister,” Cheam Yeap said.
But Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana said last week that in Mu Sochua’s case, the parliament has to send a letter to the Justice Ministry and that the ministry was still awaiting word.
“I am waiting for a letter from the parliament first,” Ang Vong Vathana told reporters following a legal arbitration workshop in Phnom Penh.
Mu Sochua’s legal battle with Hun Sen started in April 2009, when she filed a defamation suit against him in relation to comments he made during a speech in Kampot province, in which he allegedly made derogatory comments about her.
The premier countersued and the court ruled against her, ordering her to pay 16.5 million riels (US$4,084) in fines and compensation to Hun Sen.
Mu Sochua said today that she has refused to make a request to the courts for the restoration of her immunity, saying that if the court will not do it without prompting, they are clearly not impartial.
“My duty is not to ask for [immunity]. I do not need to ask, it is a duty of the law enforcer,” Mu Sochua said.
“Samdech Prime Minister has said that if you exit by any way, you must enter by the same way. Now will this be re-enforced or is it political discrimination?”
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the Ministry of Justice had to write to the National Assembly, since it made the initial request to remove Mu Sochua’s immunity.
“It is not necessary for the person concerned to ask,” he said today.