Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Men Sothavarin was a no-show in court yesterday, the latest instance of a party member citing a busy work schedule in spite of a summons over a violent political protest in July of last year.
Speaking by phone from his provincial constituency in Kampong Thom, Sothavarin said that in addition to fulfilling his duties as a lawmaker, he is baffled as to why he was even summonsed in the first place.
“How does the [court]summons a lawmaker to answer [questions]?” he said. “I keep answering the questions in the same way since the time I was arrested. This case is politically motivated, and must end through the culture of dialogue.”
He added that he will not appear in court as long his parliamentary immunity remains intact.
Yesterday, his lawyer Sam Sokong took the reigns. He confirmed that he appeared in court, telling presiding judge Keo Mony that his client was working and therefore could not make an appearance.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said party leaders want the cases to be dropped. “We will try to end the problems that remain,” he said. “It is the right [of lawmakers]to not answer.”
Sothavarin is among seven CNRP lawmakers charged with inciting an “insurrection” on July 15 of last year, following a demonstration that turned violent in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 general election.
In addition to Sothavarin, lawmakers Mu Sochua, Ho Vann, Keo Phirum, Real Camerin, Nuth Rumduol and Long Ry have been summonsed by the court over the protest. Five have already been called to court, but only Mu Sochua has appeared for questioning.
When asked why she showed up, Sochua said she wanted to ask the court if they were familiar with the constitution.
“I went to court to ask if they had read Article 80 of the Constitution,” she said. “I should not have been [asked]in the first place.”
Article 80 of the 1993 Constitution states: “No [National] Assembly member shall be prosecuted, detained or arrested because of opinions expressed during the exercise of his or her duties.”
As for her colleagues, Sochua maintained they had “other things to do”.
Nuth Rumduod is scheduled to appear today, while Long Ry is penciled in for Friday.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ETHAN HARFENIST
My colleagues and I photofraphed handcuffed after a full night in detention