Five more former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) senior officials were granted political rehabilitation on Tuesday, a day after they submitted requests to the Ministry of Interior.
Four former lawmakers, namely Ou Chanrath, Chiv Cata, Tep Sothy and Kang Kimhak, as well as former member Chan Sela, were granted rehabilitation by Acting Head of State and Senate President Say Chhum.
As of Tuesday, nine of 118 Supreme Court-banned CNRP officials have been granted political rehabilitation since the amendment to the Law on Political Parties came into effect in January.
“It is not a surprise for me. I am neither thrilled nor shocked – it is not my personal matter, it is a matter of national interest. It is for our common interest,” Chanrath said after receiving confirmation of his rehabilitation.
He declined to comment further, saying he would hold a press conference this week on what he would do next.
Sothy, a former member of the National Assembly for Takeo province, said she was happy to receive political rehabilitation.
“I am so thankful to Say Chhum for granting me my political rights. I am honoured and appreciate the ability to be involved in politics for the sake of our nation,” she said, adding that rehabilitation could lead to a dialogue on political reconciliation.
However, some in the CNRP had criticised their decision to request political rehabilitation, saying they had sold themselves to Hun Sen and would become his puppets.
Sothy replied to the accusations, saying: “Criticism is normal in a democracy. I haven’t sold myself, I am still clean. Those who accuse me [of selling out] have not thought before criticising. It is their opinion so we cannot control that. It’s not good to shout from abroad – negotiations should happen inside the country between Cambodian and Cambodian.”
Khieu Sopheak, Ministry of Interior spokesperson, said no further requests for rehabilitation had been submitted as of Tuesday evening.
Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said it was no surprise that the rehabilitation process was so quick as the amended law had been prepared for this.
“The amended law is like an open door to welcome them. It is waiting for people to walk in, so there is no complicated procedure. The spirit of that amendment means it does not require many conditions, they just submit requests to the King or the Acting Head of State [via the Ministry of Interior],” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said granting rehabilitation was possibly a move to rejuvenate the CNRP in Cambodia under a different name and secure the release of party president Kem Sokha.
This would enable the government to isolate Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the CNRP, currently based in France, from the party’s resurgence.