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Immunity Question Hurts Assembly’s Fairness: Expert

The National Assembly should be a place of justice and fairness, with serious weight given the suspended immunities of its members, a democracy advocate said Thursday.

“What is important is that there should be a place to find right and wrong and what is just in the National Assembly, and if immunity is removed, it should not be done very quickly like this,” said Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Hang Chhaya was referring to the Nov. 16 suspension of opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s parliamentary immunity, the third opposition suspension this year.

Sam Rainsy is facing charges in Svay Rieng of incitement and destruction of property, after villagers reportedly angered by Vietnamese encroachment allegedly pulled border markets out of the ground in Chantrea district.

Hang Chhaya echoed concerns of US congressman Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, who said this week that such court cases and the removal of parliamentary immunity could hurt democratic debate in the nation’s legislative body.

Callers to “Hello VOA” Thursday showed wide condemnation for the suspension, which occurred with only members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party present.

“Sam Rainsy is a member of parliament, and he has the right to serve the people,” said a caller named Un.

“What the government has done to strip [his] immunity is a clear threat not only to Sam Rainsy but other MPs,” said a caller named Ma. “That’s not respectful of freedom and people’s confidentiality, because those are representatives of the people.”