The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on Saturday accused Prime Minister Hun Sen of using the courts to intimidate the party after three of its youth leaders were arrested and seven lawmakers summoned for questioning over violent protests last month.
The accusation came 11 days after CNRP leader Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen forged a political compromise in which opposition lawmakers would end their boycott of parliament and the prime minister agreed to adopt electoral reforms following disputed general elections a year ago.
On Saturday, CNRP said in a statement that three Phnom Penh party youth leaders had been arrested for alleged involvement in the July 15 protest by CNRP supporters pushing for the reopening of Freedom Park in the capital Phnom Penh.
Forty people were injured after the peaceful protest escalated to violence when park security guards tried to pull down a banner hung by the CNRP calling on the government to reopen the park, the only place where protests were allowed in the capital before it was closed to the public in January.
The CNRP identified the three arrested leaders as Khin Chamrouen, 32, Neang Sokhun, 28, and San Kim Heng, 28, saying they were “accused of involvement in the violence” that left at least 40 injured outside Freedom Park.
On Friday, CNRP deputy chief Kem Sokha, seven party lawmakers and another opposition member were summoned by Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge Keo Mony for questioning on Aug. 11 in connection with the violence.
The seven lawmakers and one party member had earlier been detained for several days and charged with “insurrection” for their role in the protest.
They were released just after a July 22 agreement between the CNRP and Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) that ended a year of political deadlock following disputed July 28, 2013 general elections.
Sam Rainsy has said that their release was part of the deal.
“Arrest and detention of CNRP lawmakers are currently used as intimidation and threat by the Cambodian People’s Party to fulfill their political gain,” the CNRP said Saturday.
“CNRP strongly appeals for the immediate and unconditional release of the …youth leaders,” the CNRP statement said.
“CPP must immediately stop all acts of intimidation and threat on CNRP in particular the use of the courts for unjustifiable and/or illegal arrest and detention,” it said.
Kem Sokha told RFA’s Khmer Service on Friday that that the court order summoning him amounted to a “political show,” saying he was not at the July 15 protest.
He said that he was surprised by the court order as he had earlier explained to the investigating judge that he had nothing to do with the protests.
Under the July 22 agreement forged by Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy, the ruling party pledged to adopt key reforms to the government-appointed electoral body, the National Election Committee (NEC), which named the CPP winner of last year’s polls despite widespread claims that the elections were rigged.
The opposition, meanwhile, agreed to join the National Assembly (parliament), which it had boycotted since the vote, though no date has been set for the lawmakers to swear in.
Working groups from the two parties are discussing the finer points of the agreement, with the CNRP pushing for immunity from prosecution for all new members of the NEC and an independent budget for the body before joining the National Assembly, CNRP sources said.
The CPP said the issue of immunity was not part of the political deal.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sok Ry Sum. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.