After having formed a “government in exile” in 2016, the Khmer National Liberation Front of Sam Serey said it will register as a legitimate political party on Wednesday as it had received the “green light” from the authorities.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said on Sunday that he welcomed the KNLF registering as a new party and that it was “the right thing [to do]”.
He also hinted that Prime Minister Hun Sen could request a royal pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni for members of the movement who had received a final verdict from the courts and had “realised their mistakes”.
A press release from the KNLF signed by Vorn Vuth, the movement’s head in Thailand, and dated Saturday, said it will officially register a new political party called the “Khmer National Liberation Party (KNLP)” at the Ministry of Interior on Wednesday.
“The KNLP is a real democratic party uniting all Cambodians with diverse political tendencies for national unity, peace, freedom, human rights and democracy."
“The KNLP would like to warmly welcome all Cambodians, both at home and abroad, and political parties, [with the] intention to jointly develop Cambodia to become as prosperous and distinguished as other [nations],” the press release said.
Vuth told The Post on Sunday that the government has given the “green light” for his movement to prepare registration documents and that it will “take additional concerns into consideration”.
He said he hoped that all KNLF members currently in prison would be granted pardons after it begins its legitimate political career.
“The Ministry of Interior has given the green light for us to prepare documents for registration, and now they are considering the legal procedures."
“When we have completed the registration, the government will consider releasing [KNLF members] including [its founder] Sam Serey. The imprisoned members have been promoted [to the KNLP’s] committee."
“We have in the past been charged by the ruling [Cambodian People’s Party] of attempting to topple the government, [but] we hope that after registration, we can conduct [political] activities in accordance with the Constitution and Paris Peace Accords,” he said.
KNLF spokesman Thuy Vy said on Sunday that the registration of the KNLP is a “positive sign leading to the settlement of a Cambodian political crisis”.
“I hope the government and Ministry of Interior will accept the registration of the KNLP, [as this] will prioritise national interests and [find] a solution to Cambodia’s political crisis. I hope that the government will consider permitting us to register as a legal party based on the Constitution and Paris Peace Accords,” he said.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment, but Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he welcomed the KNLF creating a legitimate political party, and that he believed it was the “right thing”.
“Cambodia’s Constitution and laws defend the political rights of each individual, except those whose rights have been suspended by the court."
“So the creation of [a legitimate political] party is the right thing and competition for those who are the decision makers. The verdict of the people through elections is tremendously meaningful for democracy, peace and stability,” he said.
Siphan reminded that 20 years ago, armed Khmer Rouge rebels were integrated into the Cambodian government through the “win-win policy” of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“It is a good thing. I think Hun Sen has the ability, proven by his achievements with the Khmer Rouge, to transform rebels into national forces for building the country."
“Hun Sen’s ability has [been] proven [in the use of] virtue, etiquette, and in the ability to reconcile the nation to carry out democracy,” he said.
Siphan said that for jailed KNLF members who had “realised their mistakes” and had received a final verdict from the courts, the prime minister might use his privilege to request pardons from the King.
“The [KNLF’s] decision to become a political party is a [good] idea . . . We know that only those prisoners who have received a final decision from the courts, have realised their mistakes and have not opposed the judgement, can enable Hun Sen to use his privilege and request the King for a reduced punishment or pardon,” he said.