Sam Rainsy has called on supporters of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) “to not surrender to Hun Sen’s lies” as the prime minister “aims to split the party”.
And he again warned that banned opposition politicians who took advantage of a Thursday law change would be “directly or indirectly serving government policy”.
However, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said it was Rainsy who had “destroyed” the court-dissolved opposition party after accepting the nomination of “acting president” while Kem Sokha is on bail awaiting trial on treason charges. He also accused Rainsy of “taking CNRP members hostage for his political gain”.
On Thursday, the National Assembly approved an amendment to Article 45 of the Law on Political Parties, which could allow 118 senior CNRP leaders banned for five years to return to politics.
A Rainsy statement on Facebook on Thursday said: “Hun Sen’s goal is to split the CNRP in order to tell the international community that some CNRP leaders have submitted to him, so he would then not need to open the way for the CNRP to be reinstated as has been requested by the international community.”
He said that as for any former CNRP politician taking advantage of the amendment to resume their political career, he questioned what was left of Cambodian politics after the government dissolved the opposition party and arrested its former president Sokha on treason charges.
“So for those who receive the right [to resume their careers] from Hun Sen, there is no way to do politics anymore besides serving Hun Sen directly or indirectly,” he said.
However, Siphan, the government spokesman, said the purpose of Rainsy’s statement was to attack the government, while it was “propaganda” meant to discourage any of the banned CNRP lawmakers from returning to politics to “make the nation stronger”.
He said that far from it being Hun Sen and his government who had “destroyed” the CNRP, it was Rainsy’s “coup” which had done so.
“It’s Sam Rainsy who split the former CNRP . . . because he created the Cambodia National Rescue Movement [in January after the Supreme Court."
dissolved the CNRP the previous November] and created a coup to grab the nomination as CNRP acting president, going against his party’s internal regulations. He is the one who destroyed the CNRP, and his move was a party coup,” he said
“It shows that Sam Rainsy is trapped . . . it is the end for Sam Rainsy.”
Rainsy was nominated “acting president” of the CNRP early this month at an international conference the former opposition party held in the US.
He added that Rainsy had taken the other 117 court-banned CNRP politicians “hostage for his own political gain, and his conduct shows he does not respect the principles of democracy.
“Sam Rainsy has taken [the barred CNRP] officials hostages for his own political gain. And he shows that he is not a person who respects the democratic process . . . He has opposed the rights of his officials to make a choice. It smacks of the Khmer Rouge, who said that those who were not with them were their enemy and must be killed, so it says it all about Sam Rainsy’s dictatorial attitude.”
“Any of them might again have the right to stand for election. They may have returned to them the right to participate in politics, and to form a political party or to join any other political party,” Siphan said.
Hun Sen said on Wednesday that the amended Law on Political Parties meant dissolved parties and their banned leaders would have recourse to request a pardon as long as they were deemed to have met certain criteria.
He said only barred politicians who had respected the court’s decision to remain out of politics would be able to request a return of their rights, while those who violated it would face a prison term of two and a half years.
“The amendment does not refer to any particular party or group, it refers to all parties in Cambodia because according to law it allows the prime minister to request to the King to pardon any prisoner,” the prime minister said.