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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - KNP told to shut - for a year

KNP told to shut - for a year

S AM Rainsy has the right to start a new political party - but not until he meets

the requirements of a new law not yet written and unlikely to be enacted within a

year - according to co-Minister of Interior You Hockry.

Hockry's declaration effectively suspends the Constitutional right of Rainsy, or

anyone else, to start a political party until a new electoral law is drafted and

passed by the National Assembly.

It will take about a year for the new law to be ready, Hockry said this week.

A month of wrangling over the legality of Rainsy's Khmer Nation Party (KNP) has culminated

in a Ministry of Interior edict that the party will not be allowed to establish any

offices.

In a Dec 7 letter to Rainsy, Hockry and his co-Minister Sar Kheng wrote that KNP

was barred from opening offices until the party was "officially recognized"

by the government.

The ministers also objected to the KNP's logo - which features the image of the ancient

Khmer king Jayavarman VII - because they said Royal symbols could not be used by

political parties.

Hockry said this week that as well as not opening any provincial offices, Rainsy

would have to close the KNP's headquarters in Phnom Penh.

Hockry threatened that the police would close down the headquarters if Rainsy refused

to, saying: " I think that measure will be taken but I can't elaborate on that."

He said Rainsy should ensure that a KNP sign outside its headquarters be removed,

and that no "political activity" be conducted on the premises.

Government officials have consistently alleged that the KNP was illegal since its

Nov 9 launch, attended by about 1000 people including several foreign ambassadors,

in Phnom Penh.

Initially, the Ministry of Interior had asked Rainsy to meet requirements of the

UNTAC electoral law - which governed the 1993 national election - including providing

a list of 5,000 registered party supporters.

Rainsy has maintained he is not obliged to meet the UNTAC law provisions but has

still given some information, including the list of supporters, to the ministry.

Hockry said this week that Rainsy had not met all of the UNTAC law provisions before

launching his party, and had disputed whether they were applicable to him.

"Since he contests the law, we think it's better to wait until the new law is

adopted," he said.

He confirmed that no new parties would be recognized by the government until the

new electoral law was in force, which was likely to be "about a year away."

Hockry disputed that the government's stance was unconstitutional. Article 42 of

Cambodia's Constitution guarantees the freedom for people to establish associations

and political parties and says that "these rights shall be determined by law."

Hockry said that the government now considered the UNTAC law outdated, as it would

be replaced by a new law which would determine the regulations that new political

parties would operate under. In the meantime, none could be started.

Hockry, asked about possible legal action against Rainsy or other KNP members if

the party was not closed, said: "I think that Mr Sam Rainsy must show that he

respects the law. If he wants to create trouble, that's up to him."

Rainsy was in Paris at the Post's press time but KNP vice-president Nguon Soeur said

the party was legal under the UNTAC law.

Soeur said the Constitution provided for existing laws to remain in force until they

were replaced with new ones, and this clearly included the UNTAC electoral law.

"You Hockry used to go to law school. He should know about this, but he pretends

not to know. If so, he has already violated the Cambodian Constitution," he

said.

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