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Former senior CNRP officials seek political rehabilitation

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Pol Ham, former deputy president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), at National Assembly in Phnom Penh in 2017. Hong Menea

Former senior CNRP officials seek political rehabilitation

Pol Ham, former deputy president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – along with former senior party member Phan Chansak – have sought permission to re-enter politics ahead of the coming commune and general elections, with the latter seeking to join the newly established Cambodia Reform Party (CRP).

Both Ham and Chansak were among the party’s 118 members who were banned from politics for five years when the CNRP was dissolved in November 2017.

They both submitted letters requesting political rehabilitation to the Ministry of Interior on May 17.

Chhim Kan, director of the interior ministry’s department of associations and political parties, confirmed to The Post on May 18 that the ministry had received their rehabilitation requests and was reviewing them before deciding whether to forward them to the King.

“If they did not do anything wrong during the period in which they were barred from politics and did not violate the court order, we will rehabilitate them,” he said.

As of May 18, a total of 22 ex-CNRP members have been rehabilitated, according to Kan.

Ham could not be reached for comment.

Chansak told The Post on May 18 that he intended to join the newly established CRP founded by his former CNRP colleague Ou Chanrath.

Chansak said the CRP is a collection of former CNRP officials who have now been rehabilitated and it will be a choice available on everyone’s ballot with a full slate of candidates in the coming 2022 commune elections where they intend to contest against the ruling Cambodian People’s Party for all offices.

Asked if Ham would join the CRP with him, Chansak said: “We will soon know which party he intends to join.”

CRP founder Chanrath said there was no need for former CNRP members to waste their time waiting for a political solution mediated by the international community since the “Everything but Arms” trade scheme was already suspended by the EU and there was still no sign of talks between the ruling party and the former opposition.

“Now, if anything, the pressure from the international community is actually less than it was before,” said Chanrath.

He said if there is no participation by opposition parties in the 2022 and 2023 elections, opposition supporters will boycott the elections and it will result in the ruling party winning with an overwhelming majority of the votes, enabling it to “ride the horse with its hands free”.

“Those politicians should not wait any longer because there is no way out besides seeking political rehabilitation and taking part in the elections,” Chanrath said, adding that he did not know whether Ham would join his party.

Political analyst Em Sovannara said he believes that Ham will also join Chanrath’s party, though he doubted the CRP will have any real impact on the elections or win the support of the public.

He said the opposition supporters will only support them if all of the CNRP members join together with the support of their former leaders Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy.

“Both Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy have not supported political rehabilitation. For Kem Sokha, although his trial is still pending, he has not sought rehabilitation. This has made some supporters of the CNRP hesitate to support the CRP,” he said.

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