Acting president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Sam Rainsy was on Thursday labelled “bewildered” by a senior government official after predicting that “99 per cent” of his party’s 118 banned former lawmakers would not seek a return of their political rights when a proposed law change takes effect.
The proposed amendment to Article 45 of the Law on Political Parties is with the Senate’s expert commission for deliberation.
The National Assembly last week unanimously approved the law change in a move that could pave the way for the former senior CNRP leaders banned for five years to return to the political stage.
To be eligible, those barred must be seen to have respected the court’s ruling. The prime minister can then request King Norodom Sihamoni for a pardon.
The Senate’s Permanent Committee is due to hold a meeting on Monday to discuss the law change before including it on the agenda of a plenary session for debate.
Rainsy on Thursday said he believed that almost all the former opposition party officials banned from politics by the Supreme Court last year would not request the prime minister for a royal pardon.
“I, Sam Rainsy, would like to praise the 99 per cent of 118 CNRP officials for determining not to request their political rights from the dictator Hun Sen."
“Offering the [return of full] political rights to all CNRP officials and dropping all charges against opposition party officials are the demands of the EU,” he wrote on his official Facebook page.
“Therefore, the 118 [barred] CNRP officials will receive the political rights without acting cheaply to ask for political rights from Hun Sen, who is in fear of commercial sanctions from the EU.”
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan responded to Rainsy’s statement by saying the CNRP co-founder was “bewildered” and did not “understand the situation”.
Siphan said that whether or not to request the reinstatement of its officials’ political rights was an internal affair for the opposition.
“He is bewildered and does not understand the situation and his former members clearly. Now Rainsy [himself] has even violated his party’s bylaws. We can also see that some former CNRP officials do not like him,” he said.
Siphan said the amendment to the Law on Political Parties is to give power to the prime minister to make judgements under his authority as to whether or not he should make a request to the King regarding those banned from political activity by the courts.
Siphan rejected Rainsy’s assertion that the change to the article came after pressure from the international community.
“The amendment of this law aims to benefit current and future politicians. It is not from foreign pressure on Cambodia,” he stressed.
While the majority of the 118 former CNRP politicians banned by the Supreme Court will likely be considering their options as the law change nears adoption, Kong Korm, a former senior adviser to CNRP, has publicly declared that he will request the reinstatement of his full political rights after the amendment takes effect.
However, Korm, an adviser to the ruling CPP until joining the opposition in the 1990s, confirmed that he does not intend to return to the CNRP, but rather become an adviser to the Khmer Will Party founded by his son Kong Monika.
“I am not thinking of ending my political life, so as long as I am banned by the Supreme Court I am very careful. Therefore, I will wait to be reinstated in order to return to the political stage,” Korm said last week.
Korm, a senior politician who at one point was president of the former Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), has recently been vocal in his criticism of Rainsy.
“[Rainsy] only thinks of his interests and the interests of his group. I want to make it clear that Rainsy’s failure in all tests is like his deception in all tests,” he said on Monday.