Assembly reinstates Ho Vann’s immunity

Lawmaker Ho Vann on a visit made by Sam Rainsy Party officials to the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province in January.
By: PHnom Penh Post

THE National Assembly has restored the parliamentary immunity of opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Ho Vann, more than five months after a Municipal Court judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to find him guilty of defamation, an assembly official said.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Chheang Vun, chairman of the Assembly’s Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Media and Information, said Ho Vann’s immunity had been restored during a meeting of the Assembly’s permanent committee. 
“From today, he has gained back his immunity,” Chheang Vun said of Ho Vann.

The National Assembly voted to lift Ho Vann’s immunity in June, and he stood trial for defamation in July after 22 senior Royal Cambodian Armed Forces officials accused him of denigrating the quality of academic degrees they received from a Vietnamese military institute in an interview with a local newspaper. Judge Sin Visal cited insufficient evidence in dismissing the charge on September 22.

Ho Vann said Friday that he was “happy” to have his immunity restored, but that the process had taken too long.

“The lifting of the immunity was urgent, but the reinstatement came late,” he said. “First, I was victimised when my immunity was suspended, and I was victimised again when I received it back because it was a late process.”

Senior Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said in February that the permanent committee had recently received a letter from the Municipal Court and Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana explaining the court ruling.

As for the other two Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers who lost their immunity last year, Chheang Vun said there was nothing the Assembly could do because both still had cases before the courts.

“We cannot interfere in the court case,” he said.

Party President Sam Rainsy’s immunity was lifted after an October demonstration during which he joined villagers in Svay Rieng province in uprooting six temporary demarcation posts near the border with Vietnam.

Svay Rieng provincial court in January found him guilty of racial incitement and destruction of public property and fined him 8 million riels (around US$1,912). He remains abroad, though he has been summoned to appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday to answer to charges of disinformation and falsifying public documents after producing maps he said were evidence of Vietnamese territorial incursions.

Mu Sochua also lost her immunity. She was later convicted of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen, a ruling she has appealed.

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