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Prince Norodom Ranariddh speaks during a press conference at his home last year
Prince Norodom Ranariddh speaks during a press conference at his home last year. A group of NGOs are seeking the former premier’s backing in a campaign for a two-term limit for prime ministers. Hong Menea

NGOs seek ex-PMs’ support

Civil society advocates – who last week called on parliament to consider amending the constitution to limit prime ministers to two terms in office – are now trying to enlist former premiers to back their proposal.

The group, which includes well-known political analysts and representatives of rights groups and election watchdogs, sent letters yesterday inviting former prime ministers Pen Sovann, Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Ung Huot to meet them on Friday or early next week.

“We want to meet them to get ideas from them. We want them to help our campaign to limit the prime minister’s term,” said Koul Panha, executive director at election watchdog Comfrel.

During a roundtable discussion last week, the group said it would send a term-limits proposal to parliament when it begins discussing amendments to the constitution and election law in coming weeks.

Sovann served as premier for six months in 1981 under the Vietnamese-installed government; Ranariddh served as first prime minister to Hun Sen’s second from after the 1993 UN-sponsored elections until the 1997 coup; and Huot served as first prime minister after Ranariddh’s ouster.

Sovann, 78, who was arrested in 1981 and jailed in Hanoi for years, said yesterday that he supported the initiative and would join the discussion.

“The limiting of the prime minister’s term is good and will make society change and the country prosper,” he said.

“Being [premier] for more than two terms is individualistic and dictator-like. It is not in line with the democracy.”

Sovann, a bitter foe of Hun Sen, won a parliamentary seat with the Cambodia National Rescue Party at last July’s election.

Neither Ranariddh, who re­cently launched a new political party, nor Huot could be reached for comment.

National Assembly spokesman Nhem Thavy said last week that the proposal of term limits, which is backed by the opposition, would not be up for discussion because it was not part of the July 22 agreement between the two parties.

Prime Minister Hun Sen is one of the world’s longest serving political leaders.

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