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Parliament Dismisses Call for Interior Minister to Answer Questions Over Kem Ley Killing


FILE-Minister of Interior Ministry Sar Kheng addresses the governors and police officials during an immigration report workshop in Phnom Penh, on Friday, August 19, 2016. (Leng Len/VOA Khmer)

Opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang, who heads parliament’s human rights committee, on Wednesday wrote to Interior Minister Sar Kheng and National Assembly President Heng Samrin, calling on Kheng to appear for questioning about the apparently sluggish probe.

Cambodia’s parliament has dismissed calls from the opposition to call the interior minister for questioning over the official investigation into the death of a prominent government critic in July.

Political commentator and one-time political aspirant Kem Ley was gunned down in broad daylight in central Phnom Penh on July 10 in a killing widely believed to be politically motivated.

A suspect who gave his name as Choub Somlab was arrested shortly after the incident on suspicion of murder. But the official investigation into the circumstances surrounding Ley’s death, now into its sixth month, has yet to yield any results.

Opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang, who heads parliament’s human rights committee, on Wednesday wrote to Interior Minister Sar Kheng and National Assembly President Heng Samrin, calling on Kheng to appear for questioning about the apparently sluggish probe.

The letter prompted a swift response from the assembly, which responded on Thursday by saying that it was not in the jurisdiction of parliament to call the interior minister for questioning, despite several other ministers having appeared previously to answer lawmakers’ questions.

Parliamentary spokesman Leng Peng Long said a “non-interference principle” protected Kheng from questioning.

“Both the parliament and the government cannot intervene in the internal affairs of the court,” he said, despite Kheng not being a member of the judiciary.

Chhay Eang, the lawmaker who filed the request, said the government was attempting to avoid the hard questions on why its probe into the killing had made no announcements about its findings.

Meas Ny, a Phnom Penh-based analyst, said that the opposition could attempt to summon the minister of justice. “If the minister of justice dares not to respond and parliament is still blocking the matter, it shows that Kem Ley’s murder is a big issue behind the scenes,” he said.

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