The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on Wednesday dismissed the Phnom Penh court's summons notice for its deputy leader and two other sitting members of parliament, arguing the move "abused the constitution" by ignoring parliamentary immunity.
Phnom Penh court deputy prosecutor Keo Socheat issued the summons for Kem Sokha, vice president and acting president of the CNRP, to appear in court on May 11 to testify in a defamation lawsuit.
The move is the first time that the municipal court has called CNRP lawmakers to testify since the filing of a complaint regarding voice recordings of alleged intimate phone conversations between Kem Sokha and 25-year-old hairdresser Khom Chandaraty, he said.
Also on Tuesday, Phnom Penh court deputy prosecutor Seang Sok issued two summonses for CNRP lawmakers Pin Ratana and To Vanchan to testify on May 16 on prostitution charges against the alleged mistress Khem Chandaraty.
The CNRP issued a statement on Wednesday slamming the summons as illegal.
"The CNRP lawmaker’s group regards any prosecutor’s summons of lawmakers who have immunity as a serious violation of parliamentary immunity, which is guaranteed by article 80 of the constitution," said the statement, which said the court's move had "abused the constitution."
"The CNRP lawmakers’ group urgently urges the court to stop issuing summons on lawmakers who still have immunity and to respect the constitution,” added the statement.
CNRP lead lawmaker Son Chhay told RFA’s Khmer Service that the court has abused the law.
“We are lawmakers, we can’t allow law violators to do anything arbitrary and (then) compromise with them,” he said. “We must state clearly that the constitution is being violated. We want to remind those violators and stop them from doing it again.”
RFA could not reach a court spokesman for comment on the CNRP's reaction.
Political tensions between the CNRP and Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) have grown worse in recent months, with the government arresting more than a dozen opposition lawmakers including Senator Hong Sok Hour, CNRP media director Meach Sovannara, and Um Sam An, an opposition member of parliament.
Reported by Mengchou Cheng for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Paul Eckert.