Cambodia PM urges prosecution of opposition lawmakers

Cambodia PM urges prosecution of opposition lawmakers
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen

PHNOM PENH - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday that seven opposition lawmakers charged with insurrection, which is punishable by up to 30 years in jail, would not be "spared" from prosecution.

The politicians, who had not been sworn in as MPs at the time, were arrested after a violent protest last July. Their detention was thought to have spurred the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) to end its year-long boycott of parliament.

The politicians were released on bail shortly after talks between CNRP leader Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen, with Rainsy saying his party would take up its seats in the National Assembly in return for a promise of electoral reforms.

But on Monday Hun Sen said the seven lawmakers, who were sworn in as legislators last August, would not be granted parliamentary immunity. He urged the courts to move forward with their prosecution.

"All seven lawmakers will not be spared from prosecution because they received (parliamentary) immunity only after the court charged them," he said in a speech broadcast on state-run TVK.

"I appeal to the court to prosecute them quickly."

The seven politicians were arrested along with several other CNRP members following July 15 clashes at a demonstration against the closure of Phnom Penh's main designated protest site.

At least 40 people, mostly security guards employed by local authorities, were injured during the clashes.

The lawmakers - including prominent MP Mu Sochua - were charged with leading an insurrection movement, masterminding violence and inciting criminal acts. The insurrection charge alone can carry a prison sentence of between 20 and 30 years.

Twelve other CNRP members were also arrested after the clashes on the same charges, with six of them still in custody.

Rights groups at the time described the charges as trumped-up. Analysts said they may have been an attempt by the ruling Cambodian People's Party to prod the opposition into ending its boycott.

Hun Sen, 62, who marked three decades as premier last Wednesday, has previously vowed to stay in power until he is 74.

He has been accused by rights groups of stifling the opposition, stamping out dissent and ignoring human rights abuses.

The CNRP boycotted parliament for nearly a year after elections in July 2013, accusing the ruling party of stealing victory through widespread vote-rigging.

 

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