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National Police ordered to analyse banned opposition members’ finances

The former CNRP leadership — president Kem Sokha and (from left) deputies Pol Ham, Mu Sochua and Eng Chhay Eang — raise hands at a meeting in March 2017.
The former Cambodia National Rescue Party leadership — president Kem Sokha and (from left) deputies Pol Ham, Mu Sochua and Eng Chhay Eang — raise hands at a meeting in March 2017. Pha Lina

National Police ordered to analyse banned opposition members’ finances

A National Police action plan has set as a priority the collection of financial information on 118 senior ex-Cambodia National Rescue Party members, with an Interior Ministry official saying asset seizures were a possibility if party officials continued their purported “colour revolution” overseas.

The 118 senior CNRP members were banned from the political arena for five years, after the Supreme Court in November dissolved the opposition party – the only viable competitor to the long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party – for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the government. Little evidence was offered to substantiate the claim, and the dissolution has prompted many to question the legitimacy of this year’s planned national elections.

The ruling party, however, has kept up the “colour revolution” drumbeat even following the dissolution, and a National Police progress report for December – obtained yesterday – contains a paragraph instructing officials to investigate “the 118” through the “analysis and evaluation” of their finances.

“Keep concentrating on national security by paying attention to information gathering, analysis and evaluation of the financial resources of those who have negative targets for the nation and government,” reads the instruction, which is listed under ongoing activities for January.

Ever since the dissolution, the government has repeatedly reminded elected ex-opposition members to submit asset declarations, which are required from officials leaving office. The declarations are routine, but are considered confidential unless a formal investigation is opened.

The development also follows a call from pro-government unions asking the government to freeze assets, block passports, ban money transfers and suspend bank accounts of the 118 former politicians for trying to lobby foreign governments to impose targeted sanctions on senior administration officials.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak yesterday confirmed the document referred to the ex-opposition members, and said the investigation into their assets was merely a continuation of the colour revolution crackdown.

In a speech on Sunday, the premier claimed that while the so-called revolution had been dismantled, “ill-willed” circles of people were still colluding to bring down the government.

“[They are] the ones who have broken the law, and the [Supreme Court] verdict has suspended their political rights; if they still contest it we will freeze their assets,” Sopheak said.

“We will consider about it, for example, who and how much money they have in the bank. This is in order to prevent a colour revolution from overseas.”

He again singled out Kem Monovithya, an opposition official and the daughter of jailed party leader Kem Sokha, as well as civil society member Pa Nguon Teang, as potential targets because of their campaigning overseas.

Many former CNRP lawmakers and members have fled overseas fearing arrest and intimidation, with some of them lobbying foreign governments to impose sanctions on those responsible for the recent political crisis.

Both the United States and European Union have already rescinded funding for the National Election Committee, and the US imposed visa restrictions on Cambodian officials found to be “undermining democracy”. Both have indicated they are considering further measures, including targeted economic sanctions.

Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said it was clear the continued investigation into the alleged colour revolution showed that the government was afraid of the popular support the CNRP continued to maintain.

“But they still keep harassing us and somehow want to make all people in the CNRP, including leaders and other people, not able to survive,” he said. “They have already ended our political lives and now do not want us to live in this society.”

He added that the CNRP would submit its routine annual financial reports to the Interior Ministry, saying there was no need for an inquiry into the party’s finances.

Political observer Lao Mong Hay said there seemed to be no legal grounds for the government to look into the financial holdings of the 118 senior party officials, saying such measures were reserved for serious crimes.

“When they are looking into the accounts and banking, they have to base it on the law, such as those for money laundering crimes or terrorism crimes,” he said.

A previous version of this article misquoted Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak. It has been updated to reflect his comments. The Post apologises for any confusion caused.

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