Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Democracy requires opposition leadership



Democracy requires opposition leadership

Democracy requires opposition leadership

100319_16
Supporters of Sam Rainsy watch as the opposition leader holds a press conference earlier this year via a video link from Paris, where he has been living to avoid legal problems in Cambodia.

Dear Editor,

In comments recently published in The Phnom Penh Post, Constitutional Council member and political analyst Sonn Soubert described new criminal charges against Sam Rainsy as an attempt to remove the opposition leader from the country.

In His Excellency’s opinion, the treatment of the opposition leader is similar to the treatment of imprisoned Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi by the government.

These comments raise important concerns as to the increasingly distressing state of democracy in Cambodia.

In particular, the apparent efforts by the Royal Government of Cambodia to ensure that the eponymous leader of the Sam Rainsy Party is precluded from standing in the 2013 National Assembly Elections are comparable to recent legislative actions taken by the government of Myanmar that serve to exclude Suu Kyi from standing in elections later this year, and which have been described by the US state department as making a “mockery of the democratic process”.

Under new legislation passed recently, in anticipation of the first election to be held in Myanmar since 1990, Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi, the leader of the country’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, will be precluded from participation in the election on the basis that she is serving a prison sentence.

According to the US state department, the measures – which will also preclude Suu Kyi’s continued membership in the opposition party – ensure that the elections, which are expected before the end of the year, “will be devoid of credibility”.

By way of comparison, Sam Rainsy – the leader of the main opposition party here in Cambodia – has recently been convicted of racial incitement and destruction of property for uprooting demarcation posts on Cambodia’s border with Vietnam, and sentenced to two years in prison in what Human Rights Watch described as a “new extreme” in “Prime Minister Hun Sen’s campaign of persecution of critics”.

On February 26, 2010, two further charges of disinformation and falsification of documents were filed by government lawyers against Sam Rainsy after he posted a number of border maps and other documents on his party’s Web site to support his claim that the Royal Government of Cambodia has turned a blind eye to Vietnamese encroachment into Cambodian territory.

If convicted of these charges Sam Rainsy could face a sentence of up to 18 years imprisonment.

In his comments on the issue, His Excellency Sonn Soubert described the treatment of Sam Rainsy as a “political issue, not a criminal issue”.

Indeed, the comments of Hun Sen throughout the affair serve only to support this conclusion.

On February 25 – the day before the filing of new charges against Sam Rainsy was reported – Hun Sen was quoted in The Phnom Penh Post to the effect that Sam Rainsy would not be able to contest the next National Assembly election in 2013. Referring to his 2005 conviction for defamation and his subsequent Royal pardon in 2006, Hun Sen stated that “this time, the court sentenced [Sam Rainsy] to jail – no pardon this time”.

These comments are important and leave little doubt as to the pointed political motivations behind the charges against Sam Rainsy.

According to Article 34(2) of the Law on the Election of Members of National Assembly, persons who are sentenced to imprisonment on conviction of a felony or misdemeanour by the courts and who have not been rehabilitated shall not be eligible to stand as candidates for election to the National Assembly.

The Code of Criminal Procedure provides for two forms of rehabilitation: judicial rehabilitation and rehabilitation by law. Even if Sam Rainsy is not convicted of the further charges filed against him, he will not be eligible for rehabilitation until three years after completing his two-year sentence for racial incitement and destruction of property.

He will, therefore, be precluded from standing in the 2013 National Assembly election.

On March 12, 2010, Hun Sen was quoted in The Phnom Penh Post to the effect that opposition members disappointed by the drafting process and passage of the Anticorruption Law by the National Assembly ought to put their energies into winning the National Assembly election in 2013.

In view of the efforts by the Royal Government of Cambodia to preclude the leader of the main opposition party from the next election, questions need to be asked about the credibility of the democratic process in Cambodia and whether the next election – much like the one expected to take place in Myanmar before the end of the year – will be “devoid of credibility”.

Ou Virak, president
Cambodian Centre for Human Rights

Send letters to: [email protected] or PO?Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length. The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

    The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine which was provided through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on March 2. The rest of the COVAX provided vaccines will arrive in Cambodia at a later date.