The Ministry of Interior granted the Human Rights Party (HRP) and Candlelight Party six-month extensions to provide the government with official lists of party leaders, a letter written by Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said on Friday.
“The ministry of interior agrees to allow the Human Rights Party to have a six-month delay in fulfilling the conditions as stipulated in Article 26 of the new Law on Political Party from the date of this notice until June 2020,” the letter obtained by The Post read.
Founded by Kem Sokha in 2007, HRP merged with the Sam Rainsy Party in 2012 to form the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
HRP former president Son Soubert announced the dissolution of the party last January, but the ministry said two-thirds of its party members failed to formally cast votes on the matter as prescribed by law.
Similarly, the Candlelight Party, which was founded in 1995 as the Khmer Nation Party and changed to the Sam Rainsy Party in 1998, held a congress last February to change the party’s statute in a bid to dissolve the party.
HRP secretary-general Hing Sok San said on Sunday that the party did not have any members left in its ranks, making it impossible to send a list of members as all of them had left to join the CNRP.
“The names of all party leaders must be sent to the Ministry of Interior, including the Candlelight Party and the Human Rights Party. The Candlelight Party has already sent the list and there is no problem.
“However, the Human Rights Party has no members remaining because they all left for the CNRP, so it could not provide a list as required by the Ministry of Interior,” San said.
The extension was granted two years after Sar Kheng, who is also a deputy prime minister, sent two separate letters to HRP president Son Soubert and Candlelight Party president Teav Vannol requiring them to send a list of leaders to the ministry after previous documents were found to be insufficient.
Kem Monovithya, the daughter of former CNRP president Kem Sokha, on Friday said on Twitter: “The Human Rights Party has not sent a list of names of leaders and requested a delay. It has sent a request to the authorities to dissolve the party since 2018.
“For the Sam Rainsy Party, it has fulfilled its obligations to the ministry in order to remain registered as a party.”
Soubert, who said he resigned as HRP president after the dissolution announcement, told The Post that he was not aware of the request for an extension as a replacement should have assumed his former role.
Former HRP senior official Pol Hom said that while he too was unaware of the party’s request for an extension, the ministry may have requested the list of senior members to provide them with “political rehabilitation”.
Kin Phea, the director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said that among those to be rehabilitated within the next six months maybe Kem Sokha if he chooses to return to the HRP.
“It is a good option, Kem Sokha should consider relegitimising the Human Rights Party. If [he] talks about the reviving of CNRP, it would be certain that Kem Sokha would still be under [court supervised bail],” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay told The Post: “Given today’s political climate, the ministry has an objective in mind when granting the Human Rights Party an extension.
“When there were demands for the release of its former president Kem Sokha, his release was the key demand from the EU to continue [‘Everything but Arms’] for Cambodia.”