At a press conference yesterday, Interior Ministry officials continued to cite a bureaucratic justification for failing to formally recognise the opposition’s leadership, while swatting away questions about how to fix the problem and threatening “legal action” if it wasn’t solved.
While recognising that the CNRP party congress on March 2 was itself legitimate, the ministry continued to say that the elevation of Kem Sokha to president of the party and the selection of three new deputies at the extraordinary congress was not, as it conflicted with the party’s old statutes.
The party, however, updated its statutes at the same congress before electing its new leadership so that it would have a permanent president to sign the candidate lists for June’s commune elections, following the resignation of former president Sam Rainsy in mid-February.
Speaking to reporters a day after meeting opposition lawmakers, Prak Sam Oeun, the director-general of the ministry’s General Department of Administration, and Undersecretary of State Bun Honn, conceded that the congress was not a violation.
Honn, however, said the ministry still took issue with the appointment of the leaders.
“Just because a congress is organised correctly, [it does not mean] that in the [congress] they can do what they wish without respecting the statute,” he said.
He said the ministry had not yet recognised the party’s changes to Article 47 of their statute, which previously stipulated the opposition should wait 18 months to choose a new president. The changes were submitted to the Interior Ministry following the congress, in accordance with Article 26 of the Law on Political Parties, which requires ministry notification of all changes.
Honn, however, repeatedly declined to answer why they had not been accepted, how precisely the CNRP had violated the law or how they could rectify the error.
Instead the two officials referred repeatedly to a written statement, which said that although the new amendments “complied with the CNRP’s statutes”, the appointments “violated both the new Article 47 and old Article 47”.
Honn said the Interior Ministry would take “legal action” if the party did not comply with their statutes.
Asked if the CNRP should simply hold another congress to reelect its leaders, Honn said it wasn’t the ministry’s role to “order” the CNRP to do anything.
“You quote this,” he said to reporters, tapping the statement.
CNRP leaders could not be reached for comment yesterday.
However, speaking to reporters after a ceremony to mark the 1997 grenade attack against Sam Rainsy’s opposition party, deputy president Eng Chhay Eang said he believed the ministry’s recognition of their congress was a positive point, adding that he remained confident it could be worked out.
“The party will find out an appropriate resolution next time to the points on which we have not yet agreed,” he said. “If the Interior Ministry recognises the congress, and does not object to our amendments, we can have a solution.”