Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mu Sochua sued over Prey Speu detainees’ ‘escape’

Almost a month after opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua gave a spirited speech that preceded the escape of detained Borei Keila evictees from the Prey Speu Social Affairs Centre, the facility’s director has sued her – but, curiously, refuses to say on what grounds.

The 18 evictees, all women and children, had been summarily rounded up by police, forced into the centre and held for a week without charge after protesting against their eviction from Borei Keila by the development company Phan Imex, which had broken a promise to provide them with housing.

Vann Nhann yesterday declined to specify why he had sued the Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, directing questions to his lawyer, who could not be reached.

Mu Sochua said she felt Vann Nhann was a good man who had been pressured by members of the government into filing ridiculous defamation and incitement charges that she could not explain.

“I was locked in the centre for more than an hour with all the women and children; the gates were locked,” she said.

“I asked him if he could please open the door, and he said: ‘I can’t without orders.’

“He knew what he was doing was wrong. He is a good man; I don’t think he wants to file a lawsuit against me, and we must stop this pressure from high-ranking officials.”

She said the fact that Phnom Penh municipal officials had denied the residents were being detained simply added to the absurdity of the fact that she was being sued.

“[Suing me] means they were detained, so it’s all catch 22. I want them to take me to court. I really do,” she said.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun could not be reached for comment yesterday.

As a member of parliament, Mu Sochua would under normal circumstances be shielded from the lawsuit because of her parliamentary immunity.

In 2009, however, that immunity was suspended by the National Assembly.

The suspension followed Mu Sochua’s filing of a defamation lawsuit against the Prime Minister after he labelled her “strong legs”, which, in Cambodian culture, implies immorality when used to describe women.

The Prime Minister promptly counter-sued and the court ruled against her.