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Lawmakers Seek Low Profile After Immunity Pull

One parliamentarian left the country and a second went into hiding Tuesday, following a National Assembly decision to suspend their parliamentary immunity for pending lawsuits.

Mu Sochua, who is facing a defamation lawsuit from Prime Minister Hun Sen after her own allegations against the premier were dropped, left for the US Monday, saying she would return July 6.

Ho Vann, who is facing suit from 22 military commanders, for defamation and incitement, after public criticism of certificates awarded the officers by the government of Vietnam, dropped from the public eye Tuesday, citing “security concerns.”

The National Assembly, with a huge ruling party majority, voted to suspend their immunity in a closed-door session Monday. Critics argue the decision could hurt democracy.

US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said the National Assembly’s decision “threatened” democratic developments the country had made in recent years.

“We are concerned that two parliamentarians were left exposed yesterday by the National Assembly to criminal prosecution, and have been disappointed to see the constriction of free expression in Cambodia over the past several months,” Johnson wrote in an e-mail.

“It appears that the courts are being used to intimidate critics of the government,” he said. “Free speech and freedom of the press are fundamental rights in democracies throughout the world, and public figures and politicians should be prepared to receive both praise and criticism from the people they govern as part of the democratic process.”