Cambodian opposition lawmakers reinstated

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy and two of his party members were reinstated to parliament on Tuesday, more than a year after they were swept from the chamber in a crackdown on government critics.

Lawmakers applauded after voting the opposition lawmakers back in, the latest easing of political tensions that were triggered by Prime Minister Hun Sen's attempts to gag dissent last year.

"The National Assembly has restored parliamentary immunity" to Sam Rainsy, said Assembly president Prince Norodom Ranariddh during the session Tuesday. Also voted back into parliament were Cheam Channy and Chea Poch.

Sam Rainsy was stripped of parliamentary immunity Feb. 3 last year and fled into self-imposed exile in France to escape arrest in a criminal defamation lawsuit brought by Hun Sen, his former political archrival.

In December, a Cambodian court sentenced the opposition leader in absentia to 18 months in prison for accusing the prime minister of being behind a deadly 1997 grenade attack on a peaceful anti-government demonstration.

Rainsy was also convicted of defamation for alleging that Prince Ranariddh was bribed to join the Hun Sen government.

He returned from exile early this month after recanting his accusation against Hun Sen.

The two leaders have recently mended their relationship, holding one-on-one talks and joining together to propose a constitutional amendment on parliamentary voting rules for installing a government.

Cheam Channy was sentenced last year by a military court to seven years in prison on much-criticized charges of trying to recruit an armed group to overthrow the government. He was released from prison early this month after receiving a royal pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni, reports the AP.

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