Sam Rainsy - Justice and Equality!
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NO HUMAN RIGHTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
By MP Sam Rainsy
Member of Parliament
Worth noting are the following points concerning the rights of Members of Parliament as stipulated in Article 80 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia:
- Members of Parliament shall have parliamentary immunity.
- No Member of Parliament shall be prosecuted, detained or arrested because of opinions expressed during the exercise of his or her duties.
The CPP-controlled National Assembly claims that procedures have been strictly followed for the removal of my immunity as they have for the removal of my colleagues' immunity. This is simply not the case. I wish to point to the following:
- The National Assembly Standing Committee merely complied with a request by the Ministry of Justice to remove our immunity without conducting its own investigation into the charges against us. In doing so, the Standing Committee showed that it is a mere tool of the Executive Branch.
- The National Assembly voted in a closed-door session to strip me of my immunity in a clearly undemocratic process.
- Local and national press, foreign diplomats, and other observers were refused entry into the National Assembly during the vote so as to avoid public scrutiny.
- To date, I have not seen any official documents related to the charges which have supposedly been brought against me by the Svay Rieng Provincial Court.
- On 26 October 2009, MP Son Chhay wrote to the President of the National Assembly recommending that a parliamentary committee be formed with MPs from all political parties with seats in Parliament to investigate land conflicts in Svay Rieng province. This request is in accordance with the Internal Rules of the National Assembly. To date, the request has not been met.
- On 13 November 2009, 15 opposition MPs from the SRP wrote to the President of the National Assembly requesting the postponement of the removal of my immunity scheduled for 16 November. The request was officially denied on 15 November.
Let me clarify the real issue in Samraong commune, Svay Rieng province where the 25 October incident took place:
His Majesty King Father Norodom Sihanouk has shown His concern for the situation in Cambodia’s provinces bordering Vietnam. Reacting to a report I submitted to Him on 7 November 2009 about Cambodian farmers losing their land because of border encroachments by the Vietnamese authorities in Svay Rieng province, the Retired King wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking for an examination of the information and evidence I had exposed on the issue.
Rather than respond in an appropriate way to the King Father, the Hun Sen government reacted by undemocratically removing my parliamentary immunity in order to prosecute me because I dared raise an important national issue that is embarrassing for the prime minister.
At his 16 November 2009 press conference, Mr. Var Kim Hong, Advisor to the Royal Government in Charge of State Border Affairs, made two important points:
- the border posts [I pulled out] are temporary markings of the border line (moreover, Mr. Trinh Ba Cam, a spokesman for the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, was quoted in The Cambodia Daily, 2 November, as specifying, “The wooden posts [Sam Rainsy is accused of having pulled out] were not official markings for the border”);
- the posts were on villagers' land [which is their private and legal property].
Article 44 of the Constitution stipulates:
“All persons, individually or collectively, shall have the right to ownership. Only Khmer legal entities
and citizens of Khmer nationality shall have the right to own land.
Legal private ownership shall be protected by law. The right to confiscate possessions from any
person shall be exercised only in the public interest as provided for under law and shall required fair
and just compensation in advance.”
The villagers/owners of the farm land were neither consulted nor were they advised of the confiscation of or trespassing on their land. In accordance with the Constitution, the villagers in Samraong commune are the legal owners of their rice fields. The "temporary" border demarcation posts were planted in their lands without their consent in contravention of the Constitution. They therefore have the right to bring their concerns to their elected representatives, to seek legal action and to seek financial compensation.
According to the Constitution, I have the full right to perform my functions as an elected representative of the people. I am entitled to speak freely and to enjoy parliamentary immunity privileges. In any event, I have committed no crime.
Once again, the government of Cambodia is using the courts which are well known to be its political tool, to silence government critics and, in particular, to suppress the voice and rights of the opposition. They can purport to remove my parliamentary immunity. They will not silence me.
In his address to the UN Human Rights Council on 26 September 2009, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia said that the government had used prosecutors and judges, while pretending to uphold their independence, to intimidate or punish critics. He stated that the government had applied the law selectively and that its supporters had enjoyed immunities from the civil and criminal process for blatant breaches of the law.
I call on the international community to question the political commitment of the Cambodian government led by Mr. Hun Sen to the rule of law and to judicial reforms. I call on the donor community to condemn Cambodia's National Assembly for lacking the political will to protect the rights of all Members of Parliament and for failing to defend the independence of this institution whose primary role is to serve the people it represents and to uphold the most fundamental principles of human rights and democracy.
The alleged crimes of the opposition lawmakers all stem from our service and accountability to the people and our public expression of opinions that are seen as a serious challenge to the power of the CPP, the party in power.
As my colleagues, I am only a representative, a spokesman and a messenger for countless victims of abuses and injustice. I am only saying aloud the many things are going wrong in this country. I hold grave fears for the future of Cambodia.
By condemning me through the undemocratic and farcical removal of my parliamentary immunity, the National Assembly serves to condemn the people of Cambodia to further oppression and the failure of democracy.
My parliamentary immunity was removed by the National Assembly on 16 November 2009 for the second time this year and only five months after the immunity of two other opposition lawmakers, Ms. Mu Sochua and Mr. Ho Van, was removed. The National Assembly is not independent and effectively “rubber stamps” political decisions made by the Cambodian People’s Party and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
It spends its time doing this instead of defending the interests of the nation and the interests of the ordinary Khmer people such as poor and vulnerable farmers who are losing their vital rice fields and other farmland to the rich and powerful.
MP Sam Rainsy
meeting Cambodian people