PHNOM PENH —
Cambodia’s ruling party-dominated Senate on Thursday stripped opposition senator Thak Lany of her parliamentary immunity in a unanimous vote attended only by the ruling party members.
A spokesman for the Senate said that Lany, who was charged with defamation after a complaint was made against her by Prime Minister Hun Sen, would not have had her immunity revoked if she had apologized for the comments, which allegedly linked Hun Sen to the murder of popular political analyst Kem Ley.
An hour after senators began their meeting, Mam Bun Neang, the Senate spokesman, said the body had decided to lift Lany’s immunity.
The Senate’s permanent committee held a meeting to review a request by the Appeal Court to strip the immunity of opposition senator Thak Lany, in Phnom Penh, on August 31, 2016. (Courtesy Photo)
“They investigated and found clues that she was a culprit for defamation and incitement under the criminal code and the court had found the clues based on four witnesses who had been summoned to clarify the case,” he said.
Bun Neang added that the motion passed by a unanimous vote of 46 ruling party senators, while 11 opposition senators did not attend the meeting.
Ly Sophanna, Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman, said now investigating judges and the prosecution had the authority to pursue Lany.
Teav Vannol, a colleague of Lany in the Senate with the Sam Rainsy Party, said it was wrong to strip her of her immunity due to what he described as “political pressure.”
Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) members Chiv Kata, Thak Lany and Mu Sochua (L to R) walk during a protest in Phnom Penh November 16 , 2009. Cambodia's parliament voted overwhelmingly to remove the immunity of opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Monday in a move likely to trigger concerns the government is using its power to intimidate its opponents. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea
He added that Lany had left the country in August following the announcement of the allegations made by Hun Sen.
She ignored previous subpoenas arguing that she would only appear in court if her immunity was revoked.
A woman holds Kem Ley portrait as thousands of Cambodians march at the late Kem Ley's funeral procession heading to his hometown in Tram Kak district, Takeo province, on Sunday morning, July 24, 2016. (Leng Len/VOA Khmer)
Sam Sokong, her lawyer, said he would meet with his client to discuss the case but admitted that now only “the court can decide to free my client from the charges”.