Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party Senator Thak Lany has missed two scheduled court appearances where she was to be questioned over comments she allegedly made that linked Prime Minister Hun Sen to the murder of prominent political analyst Kem Ley last month.
Her lawyer, Sam Sokong, said on Wednesday after she failed to show for the second court date that the senator would only appear in court if her parliamentary immunity was revoked.
A lawyer for Hun Sen filed a lawsuit against Lany on August 1.
“The immunity [of my client] is a bulletproof power for senators that is guaranteed by the constitution … when we summon a senator who has immunity it affects the reputation of the [Senate] and affects other senators. It’s an abuse of the constitution and lawyers would like to see the constitution respected and implemented,” Sokong said.
Oum Sarith, a spokesman for Lany, said the Senate’s Permanent Commission had scheduled a meeting to discuss Lany’s case and her immunity.
“We have not yet received a permit from the judicial institution or Ministry of Justice. We’ll wait and see the letter first,” he said.
Ly Sophanna, a spokesman for the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said in a text message that there was no formal legal mechanism for delaying the implementation of a court summons.
“The suspect, Thak Lany, failed to appear at the court for a second time … we decided to continue the investigation into the case by examining the complaint, the evidence, and witnesses,” he said.
CNRP president Sam Rainsy was also the subject of a similar defamation complaint, filed on the same day by Hun Sen’s lawyer, over comments he made on his Facebook page. He has since repeated the comments and said he stands by the claim that Hun Sen was behind Kem Ley’s murder.
Under article 104 of the constitution, senators are protected from prosecution, detention and arrest stemming from “opinions expressed in the exercise of his/her duties”. However, if two-thirds of sitting lawmakers vote for immunity to be revoked the rule becomes void.
Rainsy remains in self-imposed exile, but has said he is willing to “attend” a questioning session at the court via videophone.