Another of the original 118 senior Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) officials banned from politics was granted rehabilitation by Acting Head of State Say Chhum on Monday, as more politicians submitted requests.
Ministry of Interior spokesperson Khieu Sopheak said a further five CNRP members had submitted requests for rehabilitation to the ministry.
Chhum, who is also Senate President, on Monday granted political rehabilitation to former CNRP Svay Rieng representative Real Camerin following his request on Thursday, according to the Royal Decree signed on Monday.
However, analysts on Tuesday said political rehabilitation alone would not be enough to keep Cambodia’s access to the EU’s preferential “Everything But Arms” agreement.
Camerin became the fourth person to be granted rehabilitation since an amendment to the Law on Political Parties came into effect in January.
The amendment paves the way for politicians banned from politics for five years following the Supreme Court’s dissolution of the CNRP to be able to rejoin the political arena.
Four of the 118 have been granted rehabilitation, while one has passed away.
“I am happy to be rehabilitated. I have already prepared the name [of a new party] and its logo. But I cannot show it to the public just yet. I will wait until there is a decision from the Ministry of Interior."
“This party will be joined by all patriots who love and trust me,” he told The Post on Monday.
Ministry of Interior spokesperson Sopheak said the five additional CNRP officials who had submitted requests for rehabilitation included the four former lawmakers Ou Chanrath, Chiv Cata, Tep Sothy,
Kang Kimhak, as well as party member Chan Sela.
He recently said 26 others had hinted they would also make requests.
Chanrath declined to comment on the reasons behind his request for rehabilitation on Monday.
Sothy, however, said she had clear goals in seeking the return of her political rights.
“First, [we] want to keep Cambodia’s access to EBA; secondly we want to see compromise and national reconciliation. I am not a troublemaker,” she said, adding that should EBA be revoked, it would be hard to get it back.
“Rehabilitation will also give me political rights. It will make it possible for me to compete in the next [commune] elections in 2022. I must make myself eligible for that,” she said.
‘Not attractive enough’
Political analyst Em Sovannara said granting the return of political rights alone to banned politicians was not sufficient to keep EBA access as the EU had demanded other reforms.
These include amending laws on political parties and trade unions, and the release of former president of the CNRP Kem Sokha.
“If all the banned officials were to submit requests for rehabilitation, it would show that the democratic space is open in Cambodia. But with this small number, it won’t be attractive enough to make the EU soften its stance on withdrawing Cambodia’s EBA access,” he said.
He said even though requests had been made and rehabilitation granted one after another, this was still far from national reconciliation.
“National reconciliation needs dialogue between the ruling party and the former opposition party. But currently, the two parties are facing off with each other,” he said, adding that the arrest warrants issued for eight former leaders of the CNRP on Thursday showed that the “bridge connecting the two parties was not open”.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the government had been evasive regarding responding to the conditions set by the EU for EBA access.
“It will have to address what is widely seen as the key issue, which is the release of Kem Sokha, when meeting the EU delegation,” he said.
Senior officials from the European External Action Service and the EU Directorate-General for Trade are due in Phnom Penh for a two-day visit on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the review and monitoring process included in the EBA withdrawal procedure launched last month.