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Government: KNLF party move ‘welcomed 100%’

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A photograph of Sam Serey posing in military fatigues in front of an altered Cambodian flag. Photo supplied

Government: KNLF party move ‘welcomed 100%’

The president of the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF), Sam Serey, said he expected the “procedure” to receive a royal pardon to begin soon.

He had recently announced his plan to begin a legitimate political party, a move which was welcomed “100 per cent” on Tuesday by a senior Ministry of Interior official.

Serey has previously been accused of being an “armed rebel leader” and in 2016 set up a “government in exile”.

He had announced plans to register the Khmer National Liberation Party (KNLP), which was also welcomed on Sunday by Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, who called it the “right thing”.

Siphan compared Serey’s return to form the KNLP with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s “win-win” policy of 20 years ago in which armed remnants of the Khmer Rouge were integrated into the government.

Serey, who currently lives in Denmark and was linked to arms trafficking and terrorist acts, told The Post on Tuesday that he was “really happy” that his party’s registration had been received positively by a senior government official.

“I am really happy because knowing that [the government] of Hun Sen has welcomed the registration of the KNLP … I can see the positive attitude of Hun Sen in easing the political tension."

“I want a political solution in Cambodia soon and that is why I am willing to register the party,” he said.

Serey said he could see that the prime minister deciding to request pardons for “political prisoners” meant he wanted to “reconcile the nation” and “ease the [political] tension” through the creation of his party.

“The government has given the green light for us to register the party, and [it] can [soon begin the] procedure to release my members and grant a royal pardon for me,” he said.

Serey, who has been accused of trying to “overthrow the government”, said his officials will register the KNLP as planned on Wednesday at the Ministry of Interior.

He said his party had already set up its structure and bylaws.

“We have prepared the documents for the 80 founding members of the party and those documents are ready for filing at Ministry of Interior for review."

“What I have done, it is from my heart. I want the country to have peace and a solution to its political crisis,” he said.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the government body 100 per cent welcomed the registration of the new party.

He said the ministry would not oppose the move if it met the requirements of the Law on Political Parties.

“Register or not, it is their business, [but we will] review [the application] first. We welcome all legal political parties and we will not [likely] oppose the registration,” he said.

He said Serey has the “right” to register his new political party in accordance with the law and he has a duty to properly follow the stated procedures.

“As long as they operate properly based on the Law on Political Parties, we will 100 per cent welcome them … if it is in contrast with the law, we do not know what to do."

“For example, if the law does not permit [the registration], the Ministry of Interior is not superior to the law,” he said.

A breakdown of the KNLP’s structure provided by Serey to The Post shows that he would become president of a party consisting of 79 other founding members, including some who are still imprisoned in the Kingdom.

Serey made headlines last month after he announced he would ‘halt activities’ and return to Cambodia if certain conditions were met, including pardons leading to the release of all KNLF members in the Kingdom’s jails.

Serey was sentenced in absentia to nine years in prison in 2014 for allegedly “plotting” an attempt to overthrow the government and has been labelled a “terrorist mastermind”.

His “government in exile” reportedly consists of 56 members. He was granted political asylum by Denmark in 2011.

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