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Minister: Hands-off Judiciary

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Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana spoke at the National Assembly yesterday despite a boycott from the opposition party. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana has never interfered in a judicial decision, he said during a speech in front of a half-vacant National Assembly yesterday.
The entire Cambodian National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) parliamentary representation is now boycotting the National Assembly after repeated attempts were made to arrest their acting party leader, Kem Sokha, over the past few weeks.
In early May, 16 CNRP members sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting Mr. Vong Vathana be summoned to the National Assembly to answer questions on his involvement in the implementation of legal and criminal policies, the detention of accused persons and defamation complaints.
During a 20-minute presentation, Mr. Vong Vathana first berated the absent CNRP members as irresponsible, of no value and disrespectful of the National Assembly. He then went on to detail his responsibilities as a public official.
“The injunction from the Justice Minister does not affect judges’ decision of any crimes. The decision for cases are always the independent power of judges and courts,” Mr. Vong Vathana said.
After yesterday’s session ended, Cambodian People’s Party members Chheang Vun and Cheam Yeap also took shots at the absent CNRP politicians and claimed the National Assembly cannot protect the opposition’s immunity, referring to Mr. Sokha’s case.
CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith disagreed with the Minister of Justice.
“The main reason why our members did not join with National Assembly is because Sokha is facing arrest. The armed forces and the police are deployed around party headquarters. The politician’s immunity is being abused,” Mr. Ponhearith said.
According to Mr. Ponhearith, when the political situation returns to normal, CNRP members may again attempt to question the Justice Minister, adding that the CNRP wants concrete answers to their questions about Mr. Sokha’s case.
They hope to ask him about the detention of politicians with immunity, the detention of human rights officials, court cases that summon politicians for questioning, issues related to political power’s influence over the courts, constitutional abuses and threats to both the opposition party and people who criticize the government.

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