Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Government rejects Serey’s ‘impossible’ request

Government rejects Serey’s ‘impossible’ request

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
KNLF founder Sam Serey (right) is seen in a photograph included in a government dossier of evidence purporting that Serey planned to bomb Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Photo supplied

Government rejects Serey’s ‘impossible’ request

The government on Thursday rejected a request by the leader of the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF), Sam Serey, to be allowed to form a legitimate political party and return to Cambodia to participate in politics.

A senior Ministry of Interior official said it would be “impossible” for Serey to form a party as he was a “prisoner who had never been in jail”.

Serey lives in Denmark after having been given political asylum in 2011. He formed a “government in exile” in 2016 after being sentenced to nine years in prison in 2014 for allegedly “plotting” to overthrow the government.

The comments came after Serey, who is accused by the government of being an “armed rebel leader”, said he would “halt” his “movement’s activities” and return to Cambodia if certain conditions were met, including the “release” of former opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Kem Sokha.

A government official said the Ministry of Interior would consider such a request from other KNLF members who had not been found guilty of committing offences.

However, Serey, who has been labelled a “terrorist mastermind” by the government, said that none of his movement’s members could form a party apart from him.

“In the KNLF, no one can form a party except me. All the members put their confidence in my leadership. Therefore, only I can make the breakthrough in this political issue. The ministry should take this into consideration. No one can form a party except me,” he said.

‘A fleeing prisoner’

General Khieu Sopheak, a Ministry of Interior spokesman, told The Post on Thursday that he had heard of Serey’s request, but he said it would be “impossible” because the KNLF founder had been sentenced to a prison term and was required to undergo the punishment or receive a pardon first.

“He is a prisoner. How can he form a party? If he forms a party then it means that the court’s verdict has been opposed."

“The important thing is to make sure that the court’s verdict becomes invalid first . . . After being sentenced in absentia, he needs to undergo the punishment passed down or get a pardon to become an ordinary person first,” he said.

Sopheak said he found Serey’s request hard as he is a prisoner who has never been in jail. “He is a fleeing prisoner who refuses to undergo his punishment,” he said.

General Sopheak said the court had not banned Serey’s organisation and so the case was different from that of the Supreme Court-dissolved CNRP. He said that if it was another person, apart from Serey, who was making the request, the ministry would take it into consideration.

“As we say in Khmer, ‘one pot will fit with its cover’. Perhaps his organisation has not been banned yet. But the 118 CNRP officials whose party has been dissolved, they are outlawed,” he said.

He said Serey’s situation is different from Sourn Serey Ratha, the founder of Khmer People Power Movement, which was also labelled a “terrorist” group.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sam Serey’s request to be allowed to form a legitimate political party and return to Cambodia was rejected by the government. Sam serey via facebook

Serey Ratha received a royal pardon after being sentenced to seven years in prison for a Facebook post urging the overthrow of the government. He returned to the Kingdom and formed a political party.

“[Suorn Serey Ratha] got a pardon. He has cleaned himself up,” he said.

On Thursday, Serey said he noted that Prime Minister Hun Sen is now more positive towards finding a solution to strengthen political unity and has released prisoners.

“I can see that his political messages are good signs, and the Minister of Interior [Sar Kheng] is also starting to calm the situation, releasing political prisoners and widening the space for civil society in Cambodia."

“I believe there will be a solution which benefits Cambodian people in the near future, and all political groups will join the next free and fair elections,” he said.

Serey said he had not written a letter of appeal for intervention from Hun Sen because he expected the prime minister to be committed to “solving the political crisis and reconciling the nation”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Koh Rong land ‘belongs to firm’

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that the 35ha being bulldozed by Royal Group Co Ltd in Koh Rong belongs to it after it was leased to it for 99 years by the government in 2008. Phearum said the land does

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.

  • Kingdom’s financial sector healthy

    Cambodia's financial sector remains on a sustainable growth path despite the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing crucial industries, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Chanto said. Tourism, garments and footwear have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact, he said, whereas the financial and agriculture sectors

  • Vietnam told to remove border tents

    Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophoan has ordered local authorities to prohibit the construction of buildings in areas bordering Cambodia and to report any irregularities immediately. Recently, Vietnamese officials removed another seven tents from the border area with Cambodia. His remarks were made on Wednesday afternoon