King Norodom Sihamoni on Saturday granted a royal pardon to Sim Sovanny, the third banned opposition politician to request political "rehabilitation", allowing him to return to the political fold.
Sovanny, a Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) committee board member, is one of 118 high-ranking CNRP officials who were banned from political activity in November 2017 when the Supreme Court dissolved the opposition party two months after its president, Kem Sokha, was arrested for treason.
Following his personal request, Sovanny becomes the third official to receive a pardon since the Amendment to the Law on Political Parties became effective on January 6.
The amendment paved the way for the banned politicians to be able to request a pardon and end their five-year ban from political activity.
Kong Korm, former advisor to CNRP and Kong Bora, former lawmaker, received a pardon in January.
“Political rehabilitation is granted to Sim Sovanny, called Sim Vanny, male, born on January 13, 1976, who was banned from involvement in political activity for five years according to the Supreme Court verdict Number 340 dated November 16, 2017,” the King’s letter of pardon stated.
Sovanny told The Post on Sunday that he requested the pardon because he wanted to encourage the leaders of the ruling and opposition parties to choose dialogue as the way to go forward and not to regard each other as enemies.
He said that for now he would wait and see if other democrats would return to compete equally in political arena.
Sooner or later, he said, all the 118 banned officials would be back in politics – so there was no need for him to wait for that.
“Now, out of the 118, only 115 left to go. Can they escape from being granted political rehabilitation by the king [in order to achieve] reconciliation? If they understand this, they would not have this doubt,” he said.
CNRP "acting president" Sam Rainsy previously said he regarded banned officials who request royal pardons as “party betrayers”.
He said requesting a pardon meant they accepted that the CNRP was guilty of the supposed wrongdoing which led to its dissolution, but Sovanny rejected the claim.
“It is not acceptance of the [party] dissolution. This is the verdict of the court. The CNRP doesn’t accept the dissolution. But for political resolution, the Ministry of Interior opened a way for banned activists and politicians to request to the King through the Ministry of Interior to get their political rights back."
"This is good. No matter how I am criticised, I am doing it for my country,” Sovanny said.
He said other banned CNRP officials were considering requesting a political pardon, but they were waiting to see a political resolution first.
Phat Sophanit, spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior could not be reached for comment on Sunday whether there had been more pardon requests submitted.
Ou Chanrath, another banned CNRP officials and former lawmaker for Takeo province said Sovanny did not consult with him in making a request, but it was Sovanny’s rights to do so.