Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday reversed his position on creating a law ahead of the next general election that would have prohibited political party leaders from holding dual citizenship.
Speaking on the 37th anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime yesterday, Hun Sen said that leaders of political parties should be free to hold multiple nationalities and still be eligible to stand in the polls.
On December 28, Hun Sen went on the offensive against self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, saying that his “continued insults” would land him in trouble ahead of the next election in 2018.
“This is to avoid people who face trouble [in the country] and hold a foreign passport from easily running out of the country and calling for foreigners to intervene,” Hun Sen said of the mooted move against dual citizenship.
But yesterday, the premiere made an abrupt change of direction.
“Several days ago, I talked about an idea for an initiative to amend the Law on Political Parties, where the president of a political party . . . would only be considered if they held one nationality.
But after consideration with important leaders of the [Cambodian People’s Party], now we will allow multi-nationals,” he said.
In the 1990s, many of the royalist Funcinpec party MPs in coalition with Hun Sen’s CPP held more than one nationality, leading to attempts to legislate against them.
“The CPP has decided to adhere to opening opportunities for leaders of political parties, even if they have one or 10 nationalities. Please take part in the upcoming election with the CPP,” Hun Sen said yesterday.
“We have one nationality, but we are also open to multi-nationals being president of political parties.”
However, he stressed that Cambodia would “not be held hostage” by the “convict” opposition leader Rainsy – a French citizen – who is wanted over a years-old defamation ruling that could see him spend two years behind bars if he returns to Cambodia from self-imposed exile.
Mam Sonando, a radio journalist who also heads a minor opposition party, said that Hun Sen was faced with a dilemma because the CPP’s ranks were “not purely Cambodian”.
“[Hun Sen] was right to back off from that idea. I think it was good timing,” Sonando said.
“[The CPP] was not truly built by Cambodians, it was a party built by the Vietnamese communists,” he added, referring to the CPP’s origins in the aftermath of the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHARLES ROLLET