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Cambodian Opposition leader Sam Rainsy stripped of immunity : a step backwards for Cambodian democracy

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Forum Asia Democracy is alarmed to learn that Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy and two M.P.s from the Sam Rainsy Party, Chea Poch and Cheam Channy, have been stripped of their parliamentary immunity. The Cambodian National Assembly took the vote on 3 February 2005, after instructing foreign diplomats, ONGs and journalists to leave the Chamber. The in-camera vote was taken by a show of hands, in contravention of the Cambodian National Assembly’s internal regulations.

Forum Asia Democracy believes that this lack of transparency and contempt of democratic principles undermines the credibility of Cambodian democracy. Such methods cannot be condoned as “upholding justice” as claimed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh, principal instigators of the unlawful vote.

Given the notorious corruption and lack of independence of the Cambodian justice system, lifting the immunity of opposition members and exposing them to prosecution for such obviously trumped-up crimes (e.g. “setting up illegal armed forces to overthrow the government”) is clearly aimed at stifling the opposition. It constitutes a grave violation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression guaranteed in the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Cambodia is a state party.

Forum Asia Democracy firmly condemns this serious blight on Cambodian democracy and expresses its solidarity with Mr. Sam Rainsy, Mr. Chea Poch and Mr. Cheam Channy. The organization strongly urges the Cambodian National Assembly to revoke this unlawful decision and re-establish their immunity.

The Forum also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Cheam Channy, who was arrested yesterday in Cambodia.

Forum Asia Democracy is an independent movement of non-governmental organizations and individuals founded in July 2001 to promote freedom, democracy and the rule of law in Asia. Wei Jing-sheng (China) is Honorary President, Vo Van Ai (Vietnam) is President, Vanida Thephsouvanh (Laos) is Vice-President. Other founder members include Aung Ko Sayagyi (Burma), Olivier Dupuis (Belgium), Cai Chongguo (China), Kunsang Chopel (Tibet) and Erkin Aptekin (Urigistan).

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