The Senate is due to gather on Tuesday to discuss the proposed change to Article 45 of the Law on Political Parties before its likely adoption at the meeting, an amendment opposition leader Sam Rainsy claims came “thanks to international pressure”.
The Senate session comes after members of the body’s Permanent Committee met on Monday and went through the draft proposal of the amendment. The law change was approved by the National Assembly on December 13.
After the meeting of the Senate’s Permanent Committee, Senate spokesman Mam Bun Neang said: “The amendment of the law is made to strengthen democracy and national unity."
“We have checked the amendment to this law and it complies with Article 8 of the Constitution."
“We have already checked the legal aspects and nothing affects the Constitution. We will discuss and adopt it in order to file it to the Constitutional Council so King Norodom Sihamoni can sign off on it."
“The Constitutional Council will check whether the law change has constitutionality or not, and if the Constitutional Council finds that it complies as stated by the Legalisation Committee, it will be forwarded to the King,” he said.
Bun Neang said the amendment would allow banned Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) officials who are deemed to have respected the Supreme Court’s ruling to have their full political rights returned.
He said the law change would permit the interior minister to ask the prime minister to request the King to withdraw the ban for all barred politicians who had respected the court and not harmed national interests, national security or the rule of law.
However, Bun Neang denied comments by some CNRP officials that the amendment was intended to drive a wedge between former politicians of the Supreme Court-dissolved opposition party.
“We do not pay attention to those who speak but cannot do anything. What we have done regards the law, the rule of law, reconciliation and national unity, so some people who think like this do not respect the law and only protest."
“Though we do [what is right], they do not accept it as such and say that it is not right because they hold an opposition mindset,” Bun Neang said.
The Supreme Court banned 118 former CNRP senior officials from all political activity for five years when the party was dissolved in November last year after its president Kem Sokha was arrested and charged with treason.
CNRP co-founder Rainsy, who lives in France to avoid a slew of outstanding legal cases and sentences, was earlier this month nominated the acting president of the former opposition party.
He wrote a letter in English dated Friday that said, “thanks to international pressure, the government of Phnom Penh is trying to show signs of altering its repressive policies”.
The letter continued: “[Prime Minister] Hun Sen knows well, as we all do, that a rehabilitation of the 118 CNRP officials has no meaning in current conditions, that is to say while the CNRP remains banned and its president, Kem Sokha, is deprived of his liberty and kept under house arrest."
“If they intend to be true to themselves, how could the 118 former colleagues of Kem Sokha resume their political activities without a party and a president?"
“To show their sincerity in the search for a solution to the current crisis, the Cambodian authorities must act logically by first releasing Kem Sokha and dropping all the charges levied against him, which have served as a pretext for Hun Sen to dissolve the CNRP and ban the 118 opposition officials.”
However, Kong Korm, a former senior adviser to the CNRP, said he welcomed the adoption of the amendment to Article 45 as it would allow him and his eldest son Kong Bora, both banned by the Supreme Court after the party’s dissolution, to have political rights returned.
“I became happy when I heard about this because this law will permit me to get back my political rights. I and Kong Bora will file a request to Interior Minister Sar Kheng immediately when the King signs off on the law and it takes effect,” he said.