U.S. Senator seeks sanctions against Cambodia

The United States should take tough action against Cambodia for stripping the parliamentary immunity of opposition leader Sam Rainsy and two party colleagues, a U.S. Senator said in a statement received Friday.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, urged the U.S. State Department to respond in “a forceful and appropriate manner.”

The Cambodian lawmakers who voted to lift immunity and their family members should be prohibited from entering the United States, McConnell said.

In a closed-door vote Thursday, the National Assembly revoked the immunity of Sam Rainsy _ long the government’s most outspoken critic _ as well as Cheam Channy and Chea Poch.

The action paved the way for lawsuits filed by government leaders against the three to go forward, some of them concerning defamation and slander.

“This is outrageous and unacceptable,” McConnell said, who called on Cambodia’s donors to condemn the government and consider sanctions against it.

Sam Rainsy left Cambodia early Thursday on a flight to Singapore.

Later that day, Cheam Channy was arrested on a charge of trying to illegally recruit an armed group.

In the most important case, Prime Minister Hun Sen filed a suit against Sam Rainsy in January 2004 claiming the opposition leader slandered him by accusing the government of hatching an assassination plot against its political opponents.

Sam Rainsy faces three lawsuits charging defamation and slander, said Kim San, National Assembly secretary general.

The royalist Funcinpec party, the junior partner in Hun Sen’s ruling coalition, sued Chea Poch for defamation. They claim he said that Funcinpec leader, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, received a bribe from Hun Sen to form a government in July 2004 after a one-year political deadlock.

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