THE Sam Rainsy Party has condemned the National Assembly's decision to strip two of its lawmakers of their parliamentary immunity, claiming that this threatens a "termination" of democracy in Cambodia.
In a statement Tuesday, the party appealed to members of parliament to reverse the decision and called on international donors and human rights groups to pressure the government over the issue.
The Assembly voted Monday to remove the immunity of lawmakers Mu Sochua and Ho Vann, paving the way for defamation cases filed against them by government officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen.
"The lifting of the immunity of the two SRP MPs is a threat and an intimidation to opposition MPs, and it constitutes a serious violation on the immunity of MPs who represent the entire Cambodian people," the party said in a statement Tuesday.
"The SRP insists that the National Assembly leaders from the CPP party closely examine and [vote for] the immediate return of parliamentary immunity to Ho Vann and Mu Sochua, without any preconditions."
But Nguon Nhel, first deputy president of the National Assembly, said Tuesday that the leaders of the assembly could not decide to restore Mu Sochua's and Ho Vann's immunity because it would involve the illegal overturning of a valid vote.
"We do not dare to abuse the whole Assembly's decision because these are the representatives of the people throughout the country," he said. "So asking for the restoration [of their immunity] without condition is illegal."
Nguon Nhel added that the Assembly lifted the opposition lawmakers' immunity to clear the way for the courts to take action on their cases following a request from the Ministry of Justice, adding that the action conformed to Article 80 of the Constitution.
"If the Assembly did not lift their immunity for the court, it would have been illegal."
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said that the vote may have been technically legal, but that in preventing Ho Vann or Mu Sochua from speaking in their defence, it violated the spirit of the law.
"In a democratic country, the parliament must allow the accused the right to speak to defend himself," he said.