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Sam Rainsy Could Face Immunity Battle

Cambodian justice officials have proposed the suspension of parliamentary immunity for opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who has refused to pay a fine levied by the National Election Committee over allegedly disparaging remarks toward ruling party leaders.

Sam Rainsy has said he will not pay the 10 million riel, or $2,500, fine, but will appeal to the Supreme Court to have charges dropped against him. The NEC and the Constitutional Council both found Sam Rainsy in violation of election laws for remarks he made during the 2008 campaign.

However, government officials speaking on conditions of anonymity say a proposal to lift the opposition lawmaker’s immunity has been forwarded to the Ministry of Justice, which is planning to forward it to the National Assembly in coming days.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party won a vast majority of National Assembly seats in the July 2008 election, which would allow voting along party lines to lift the immunity.

Sok Roeun, a deputy prosecutor for Phnom Penh Municipal Court, would not discuss Sam Rainsy’s immunity Thursday, but said if the opposition leader doesn’t pay his fines, the courts will take legal action. Asked what that action would be, he declined further comment and hung up the phone.