Opposition lawmaker Um Sam An is led in handcuffs. Photo supplied
Opposition lawmaker Um Sam An arrested in Siem Reap
ppp Mon, 11 April 2016
Outspoken opposition lawmaker Um Sam An, who has incurred the government’s wrath in the past with his strident criticism of its Vietnam border policy, was arrested last night in Siem Reap shortly after arriving back in the country, and was taken to the anti-terrorism department of the Ministry of Interior this morning.
Saron Sam Oeun, deputy provincial chief of security, confirmed the arrest but declined to comment on why Sam An – who holds parliamentary immunity as National Assembly representative – was being arrested or who gave the order.
“We arrested him in front of the Canadia Bank at 12:40am last night while he was withdrawing money, and we had used a lot of forces including police and military police,” he said. “He did not fight back when our authorities arrested him, and we have sent him to the Ministry of Interior.”
The Cambodia National Rescue Party, in a statement, condemned the arrest.
Sok Kim Seng, an opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party Siem Reap provincial councillor, said police had surrounded his house for hours looking for Sam An.
“There were 40 police and military police surrounding my house from 9:30pm until 12:30am, and they took me at 12:40am to provincial police headquarters because they suspected that he stayed with me … They had checked my calls,” he said. “They tried to ask me ‘where is Um Sam An?’”
“Their actions violated my rights … and threatened me,” he added. “They killed two birds with one stone – they arrested Sam An and they threatened me.”
Sam An’s parliamentary immunity has been threatened in the past by ruling party lawmaker Chheang Vun. Last July, Vun said that a four-day investigation of Sam An’s criticism of National Assembly President Heng Samrin – who had previously refused to forward a letter about the border to Hun Sen – found that Sam An had “acted wrongly”.
Vun declined to comment at the time on what law had purportedly been broken, but insisted that steps could be taken to strip Sam An’s immunity, though such an act generally requires a two-thirds vote in the Assembly, or that the alleged offender be caught in the act.
Last September, Sam An was also allegedly named in a court complaint relating to violent scuffles that broke out between opposition supporters and Vietnamese soldiers and residents during a border visit.
However, the person named as the plaintiff in the case said she had never filed the suit, and didn’t want to pursue it. Nonetheless, she said at the time, she was grilled by a Svay Rieng prosecutor as to whether Sam An and fellow CNRP lawmaker and border activist Real Camerin had led the visit, though the prosecutor refused to tell her the nature of the complaint she was purported to have filed.