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Sam Rainsy seeks restoration of immunity after paying fine

Sam Rainsy seeks restoration of immunity after paying fine

090302_04.jpg
090302_04.jpg

Opposition leader pays 10m riels after months of disputing NEC action, which led to loss of parliamentary protection.

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HENG CHIVOAN

Sam Rainsy, who had his parliamentary immunity lifted to force him to pay an NEC fine, speaks at a press conference last month.  

SAM Rainsy, president of the Sam Rainsy Party, has written to the chairman of the National Assembly requesting that his parliamentary immunity be reinstated.

The opposition leader wrote his letter to National Assembly Chairman Heng Samrin on Friday, the day after he was stripped of his immunity by the assembly's parliamentary permanent committee for refusing to pay a fine related to last year's national election.  

"I would like Samdech [Heng Samrin] to undertake the legal steps to reinstate my parliamentary immunity, as I am a parliamentarian," the letter reads.

The opposition leader had refused to pay a 10 million riel (US$2,400) fine levied by the National Election Committee (NEC) for comments he made about leaders of the ruling Cambodian People's Party during last year's general election.

Both the NEC and the Constitutional Council have ruled against Sam Rainsy, who has called the decisions illegitimate, saying the matter was a penal one and should be ruled on by the courts.

Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that he would ensure Sam Rainsy would be stripped of his parliamentary immunity if he did not pay the fine.

On the day Sam Rainsy lost his immunity, he paid the fine - a step that NEC Secretary General Tep Nytha said led the election body to withdraw its complaint against the opposition leader. Tep Nytha said the money would be placed in the national budget.

Sam Rainsy said Sunday that he had emailed a complaint to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), an international grouping of parliaments based in Switzerland.

"The IPU knows me well because I have filed complaints with them before," he said. "I have paid the fine so that I don't fall into [the government's] trap - but I am fighting back. This action is to show that the court is not independent and is putting pressure on the opposition and violating the constitution."

CPP lawmaker Sman Teath, who sits on the parliamentary permanent committee, said the committee would consider reinstating his immunity because he had acted in accordance with the law. But he said the matter was not pressing. 

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