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Silencing Opposition,  A Threat to Cambodia Democracy: US Congressman

A US congressman warns that removing immunity of the Cambodia's main opposition leader is a threat to democracy the country has barely achieved.

"The lifting of parliamentary immunity from the head of the Sam Rainsy Party is just the latest troubling sign from Cambodia's fledgling Democracy," said Ed Royce (R-Calif.) in an e-mail response to VOA Khmer on Tuesday.

"Cambodia needs to embrace political pluralism in all of its forms, and the State's continued attempts to marginalize the political opposition are of great concern," he said.

The National Assembly stripped Sam Rainsy of his immunity on Monday in a session present only by parliamentarians from Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party.

Sam Rainy has been charged with inciting a failed criminal act and misdemeanor when he led a team of villagers to uproot six wooden boundary markers in Svay Rieng province bordering Vietnam.

However, Sam Rainsy defends his act saying that he only helps people who brought to his attention a complaint about an encroachment of their rice field by Vietnamese authorities.

"If the US congress wishes to let the opposition do whatever they want, that's not the rule of law," said Phay Siphan, a spokesman at the Council of Ministers, adding that the removal of the immunity was merely to pave the way for a court investigation.

"If the court finds him not guilty, it is not a problem," he said.

Sam Rainsy is currently in Europe mobilizing political support from European parliament and international community.

Three opposition parliamentarians have had their immunity revoked this year for upsetting Prime Minister Hun Sen and senior government officials. Civil society in Cambodia notes that the government has lately taken the strongest action ever against opposition politicians and journalists through its non-independent court systems.

In October four US congressmen - Ed Royce (R-Calif), Frank Wolf (R-Va), Joseph Cao (R-LA), and Jim Moran (D-Va), proposed a Congressional resolution condemning Cambodia's wide-spread corruption, human trafficking, and violation of freedom of expression and human rights.