Former Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Ou Chanrath has submitted an application to the Ministry of the Interior to officially establish the Cambodia Reform Party (CRP) as of March 1.
Chanrath has rejected criticisms that his new party is just “a flower planted in Freedom Park to make it look nice and pretty” rather than a legitimate opposition party, as some critics have claimed.
Chanrath, a former National Assembly representative for Takeo province, said he submitted the registration form on March 1 but that he still had to fulfil certain of the requirements as stated in the laws on political parties.
The documents submitted by Chanrath include the official party name, logo and related paperwork. He still needs to provide the thumbprints and the identification cards of the members.
“We still have some work to complete like the party regulations and bylaws. We’ve already drafted them but we need the approval of the party members. When the Covid-19 situation is better, I will hold a press conference about all of this,” Chanrath said.
Some of the members of Chanrath’s new party are still abroad in places like the US and unable to return presently due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
One prominent former-CNRP member, Son Chhay, who underwent political rehabilitation last September and is now permitted to take part in national politics without restrictions again, has also been approached to join the party – but Son Chhay has not decided what he’ll do yet, Chanrath said.
He said that since he initially decided to form the party he has faced some criticism from former members of the CNRP who are still effectively living in exile abroad. Many had been hoping that a political solution or opportunity for rapprochement with the government would present itself.
Chanrath said that many of them had been expecting the return of the CNRP, but three years had gone by now without any signs that the party could possibly make a comeback.
“I think these challenges related to differences in opinion will fade away soon when everyone realises that the only possible way forward is a restart. That is, to mobilise our former members who are outside the government and to [run candidates] in the elections again,” he said.
He rejected the accusation that his new party was just for a show or merely window dressing to make Cambodia appear more democratic than it actually is.
“These attacks about the formation of this party are widely known. The reason is that some supporters and activists of the [former] CNRP do not trust the integrity of Cambodian elections. But if [the next] elections are [competitive] and freely and fairly held then people will have reason to believe in democracy again and all these notions that [this new party] is just a flower growing in Democracy Park will fade away,” he said.
An effective political party, Chanrath said, must have clear goals. It must not be involved in any activities that could bring disaster to the nation. Nor, he said, can a legitimate opposition political party accept money from the ruling party or succumb to outside pressures to take actions that politically benefit the ruling party.
Chhim Kan, head of the political party registration department at the Ministry of Interior told The Post on March 1 that the Ministry of Interior had 47 registered political parties, not including Chanrath’s new party, though one of the 47 parties had recently requested dissolution he noted.
He said that Chanrath’s CRP had not yet fulfilled the requirements stated in Article 9 of the Law on Political Parties.
“We received their registration application form, but our officials in charge could not proceed with the registration because it is missing the 80 thumbprints of the members listed with permanent addresses in Cambodia,” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Chanrath’s statements pledging not to make the party just like “a flower in Democracy Park” did not mean much at this point – and wouldn’t mean much at any point –unless and until Chanrath, as the founder of this new party, substantiates a clear platform and vision for it.
Mong Hay said that Chanrath needs to annunciate a clear governing strategy that he would follow to materialise his vision for Cambodia’s future before the Cambodian people would ever entrust their power to him and his new party to govern the country on their behalf.
Although he voiced some scepticism about the viability of Chanrath’s new party, Mong Hay concluded his remarks by saying that “free men and free women should and would support the constitutional right to form a political party. And I have and will continue to support that right.”