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Threats to Immunity 'Baseless': Sam Rainsy

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Thursday his lawmakers-elect would continue to boycott the formation of a new government, in the face of a verbal attack by Prime Minister Hun Sen that hinted at attacking the opposition's parliamentary immunity.

National Assembly lawmakers-elect are less than a week away from swearing in a new government, but elected lawmakers of the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties have said they will not attend the Sept. 24 event.

"I'm maintaining my position to boycott the swearing-in ceremony, even if Prime Minister Hun Sen threatens to take legal action against me," Sam Rainsy said Thursday. "I maintain my position against the unfair election and the lack of solution to my election complaints."

Hun Sen said in a public speech Wednesday the National Assembly had been "insulted," by being called "yuon," a racial slur for the Vietnamese, an Assembly of "ghosts," and an institution of "thieves." He was referring to a Radio France International interview with Sam Rainsy.

"If we take legal action against Sam Rainsy, we can easily strip his National Assembly immunity," Hun Sen said, during a graduation ceremony at Pannasastra University.

Sam Rainsy said in the RFI interview that the National Assembly lawmakers for the Cambodian People's Party had been elected by illegitimate or non-existent "ghost" voters.

Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer Thursday the remarks by Hun Sen were intended to "shut up" and censure the freedom of expression and criticism of the opposition.

"I am not afraid of Hun Sen's threats," he said. "I have been getting such threats from the country's leaders for 15 years. I'm not afraid, and I'm not stopping the activities of the opposition, and the remarks of Prime Minister Hun Sen are baseless."

Human Rights Party spokesman Yem Ponhearith on Thursday said the remarks by Hun Sen were detrimental to free speech.

"The criticism during the election campaign did not constitute an insult," he said. "If Hun Sen takes action against Sam Rainsy, I believe our democracy is not enough and this will affect democrats in their expression."

Lao Monghay, a researcher for the Asian Human Rights Commission, said Thursday the remarks were not a good sign for Cambodia.

"The two sides should make a good compromise with each other," he said. "If Hun Sen complains to the court, the court has been criticized as being under the power of the government and Hun Sen."