Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CPP assembly members vote for ‘Anti-Rainsy’ law

CPP assembly members vote for ‘Anti-Rainsy’ law

CPP lawmakers vote in favour of controversial amendments to the Law on Political Parties during a National Assembly session yesterday in Phnom Penh. The law effectively forbids former opposition leader Sam Rainsy from participating in the Kingdom’s politics.
CPP lawmakers vote in favour of controversial amendments to the Law on Political Parties during a National Assembly session yesterday in Phnom Penh. The law effectively forbids former opposition leader Sam Rainsy from participating in the Kingdom’s politics. Pha Lina

CPP assembly members vote for ‘Anti-Rainsy’ law

The National Assembly swiftly passed controversial new measures yesterday to effectively ban former opposition leader Sam Rainsy from the political arena or from bolstering the opposition’s firepower ahead of next year’s elections.

The amendments to the Law on Political Parties are the second round of changes this year, following an earlier amendment that forced Rainsy to resign as the president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party in February to avoid the possible dissolution of his party, just months ahead of the commune elections.

But the sustained attack on Rainsy – who is currently in self-imposed exile in France, and would face jail time if he returned to Cambodia due to a slew of politically tinged criminal cases – will strengthen rather than diminish the potency of his political rhetoric, Rainsy and some political analysts said yesterday.

Rainsy yesterday goaded the premier over the latest changes, which he branded the “Anti-Sam Rainsy Law”.

“I am honoured to be Hun Sen’s constant obsession,” Rainsy said, while still urging the prime minister to “push for the adoption of really useful laws aimed at putting things right in a country that is just upside down”. “He must now understand that his efforts to get rid of me – whatever the means he uses – have been and will remain useless, futile and counterproductive.”

Rainsy also suggested there were “millions of Sam Rainsys” in the Cambodian citizens who fight for freedom and justice, and claimed he had attained near-mythological status.

“As in any religion, legend or myth, the more you strive to kill the central figure, the more he remains alive and becomes more and more vibrant and popular,” he said.

After less than an hour of debate, the amendments were passed by the assembly with 66 votes, though Prime Minister Hun Sen and Interior Minister Sar Kheng were conspicuously absent from the session. The CNRP, which holds 55 seats to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s 68, boycotted the vote.

CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua yesterday defended her party’s decision not to attend the National Assembly and argue against the laws.

“It’s the same question asked each time we decided not to be there. Would there be a true democratic debate?” Sochua said in an email, adding she doubted the law would have its intended effect.

“That law will bring together the voices of other democrats to stand with the CNRP,” Sochua said. “It’s the case each time the CPP passes a law or uses its power to threaten, arrest, or eliminate the voice of its critics.”

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Motorists pass a CNRP billboard featuring former party President Sam Rainsy yesterday in Kandal. New changes to the Law on Political Parties forbid the use of Rainsy’s image in party materials. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP

The new amendments ban parties from “using the voice, image, written documents or activities of a convicted criminal . . . for the interests of the party”, and from “accepting or conspiring with a convicted criminal to do activities in the interests of the party”. Currently Rainsy appears – along with his successor Kem Sokha – on thousands of party billboards across the country and is a regular presence, via Skype, at opposition events.

The new law also prevents political parties from “supporting or organising any plans or conspiracies with any individual to undertake any actions against the interest of the Kingdom of Cambodia”.

Any parties who violate the law could be banned from political activities for five years and disallowed from competing in elections, or even dissolved.

Though the premier was absent yesterday, his youngest son, CPP lawmaker Hun Many, made an impassioned speech advocating for the changes, saying they were a matter of “national security”. “We should consider if some views or some words can affect the security of the nation and affect the interests of the nation,” Many said.

But despite the amendments, political analyst Meas Ny said that for many Cambodians, Rainsy remained an effective and charismatic leader. “He can still drive up the support, the way he speaks is very colourful and he has the ability to compete directly with Hun Sen.”

Sebastian Strangio, political analyst and author of Hun Sen’s Cambodia, said while it might be smarter for the CPP to ignore Rainsy rather than launch a new legal offensive, the changes were likely sparked by frustration that – through Facebook – Rainsy continues to enjoy a political platform.

“It does seem to be an instance of overkill,” Strangio said, saying the ruling party were driven by “fear and paranoia” over foreign intervention and losing power.

Strangio said he believed the CPP was “trying to remove Sam Rainsy by the root from the CNRP” in order to avoid a repeat of the opposition momentum Rainsy garnered in the 2013 national election.

Meanwhile, the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights yesterday called the ruling party’s move to reconfigure the law as “legal harassment” of the major opposition.

The changes still must be approved by the Senate and Constitutional Council before being signed by the King into law.

MOST VIEWED

  • Chinese influx pushing locals, Westerners out of Preah Sihanouk

    Some within the Kingdom’s tourism industry have speculated that the recent influx of Chinese visitors may hinder domestic tourism as the price of accommodations in the coastal city of Sihanoukville continues to rise. Preah Sihanouk province, which has become a hotbed for Chinese investment

  • ‘Dire consequences’ from sanctions, warns AmCham

    American businesspeople in Cambodia have warned that any sanction against the Kingdom would have “dire consequences” that could push Cambodia even further into the arms of China. In a letter to US senators and representatives dated Monday, the American Chamber of Commerce Cambodia (AmCham) said

  • Preah Sihanouk beach developments halted

    After receiving an order from Hun Sen, Minister of Land Management Chea Sophara led a team of experts and relevant officials to Sihanoukville to call a halt to the illegal development of a beach. The prime minister ordered the Prek Treng beach in Otres commune

  • CPP: ‘Behave or Sokha suffers’

    The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman warned Kem Monovithya on Thursday that her attempt to damage “national reputation and prestige” would lead to her father, Kem Sokha, receiving even harsher punishment. Sok Eysan issued the warning as Monovithya, who is the court dissolved