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Cambodia's Legislature Strips Immunity of Opposition Leader - 2005-02-03

Cambodia's legislature has stripped opposition leader Sam Rainsy and two other members of his party, Mr. Cheam Channy and Mr. Chea Poch, of their parliamentary immunity Thursday.

Witnesses said dozens of armed forces surrounded the National Assembly building in Phnom Penh on Thursday, as lawmakers inside voted to remove the immunity of Sam Rainsy and two other opposition politicians.

Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen told reporters afterwards that Mr. Sam Rainsy and the other two members of his party have violated other people's rights and that now they have to face justice.

Mr. Hun Sen said that the removal of the three parliamentarians did not mean to be a punishment but to clear way for the court to investigate the lawsuits against them.

Mr. Sam Rainsy is facing a defamation suit by Prime Minister Hun Sen after he accused the government of planning to kill political opponents. The president of the national assembly, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, is also suing Sam Rainsy for libel for alleging he accepted bribes to join the coalition last July.

Mr. Rainsy, who said he had feared arrest, left Cambodia Thursday and is now staying outside Bangkok, Thailand.