PHNOM PENH - Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has submitted a request to the National Assembly to have his parliamentary immunity restored.
His immunity was suspended following criminal charges against him for uprooting border markers near Vietnam in 2009. He was given a royal pardon for those and other crimes, setting the stage for his return to the country last week.
Officials for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party are seeking a way to have Sam Rainsy run for the July 28 elections, but National Election Committee officials have said this is not possible under election regulations.
In a letter to National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Sam Rainsy said that under the law he should have his immunity restored as a member of the Assembly.
However, the Assembly has already ejected all 29 opposition lawmakers, including Sam Rainsy, claiming they had given up their seats by joining two parties into the Rescue Party.
Cheam Yiep, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said the Assembly is considering the request.
Sam Rainsy has meanwhile sent a letter to Im Soursdey, president of the NEC, requesting again that he be allowed to contest the elections, in Kandal province, where Prime Minister Hun Sen is also a candidate.
With just five days before the election, it remains unclear whether Sam Rainsy will run. He was greeted with much fanfare from tens of thousands of supporters when he landed on Friday, ending more than three years of self-imposed exile.
Opposition officials say they hope his return will provide a boost to their election hopes, whether he runs as a candidate or not.
But leading CPP members say it matters little and that they are focused on their own campaigns.
“Sam Rainsy alone is not more important that the entire Cambodian people and nation,” said Hun Neng, the longtime governor of Kampong Cham province and the older brother of Hun Sen. “Sam Rainsy is just a person like any other.”
Hun Neng said he was confident the National Election Committee was doing a proper job in dealing with Sam Rainy’s return. “The election [process] has been done properly,” he said. “The NEC does proper work.”