PHNOM PENH - The Court of Appeals on Friday granted parliamentary immunity returned to opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, who has appealed for three years after losing a defamation suit to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Mu Sochua first sued the premier in 2009 over election comments he made during the previous year’s election campaign that she claimed were derogatory.
Hun Sen followed suit, accusing her of defamation for the accusations, and the National Assembly stripped Mu Sochua of her immunity so that she could face the suit in court. Mu Sochua did not win her case. Hun Sen won his.
But the National Assembly did not return her immunity immediately.
“Sometimes the court provides justice and sometimes not,” Mu Sochua told reporters Friday, saying Cambodia’s judiciary needs “help.”
Cambodian parliamentarians are provided immunity from court prosecution by the constitution, as a way to protect them and allow them to speak freely in debates. That immunity can be voted away by members of the National Assembly, however.
Critics say the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, which has 90 of 123 seats, has used its majority to strip immunity from opposition lawmakers and expose them to court action. Other opposition officials, including opposition leader Sam Rainsy, have had their immunity revoked in the past.
Rong Chhun, president of the Independent Teacher’s Association, a pro-opposition union, said the court’s remain politically biased.
“Because Mu Sochua is a member of the opposition party, the court took three years to provide her with her immunity,” he said. “If Mu Sochua were a member of the ruling party, maybe within three days the court would provide her immunity.”