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Dual-citizen party leaders offer support for PM proposal

Mam Sonando talks to supporters during a demonstration at Freedom Park earlier this year. Sonando, a duel citizen, yesterday accepted Hun Sen’s proposed change to criteria for political party leaders.
Mam Sonando talks to supporters during a demonstration at Freedom Park earlier this year. Sonando, a duel citizen, yesterday accepted Hun Sen’s proposed change to criteria for political party leaders. Vireak Mai

Dual-citizen party leaders offer support for PM proposal

Three political party leaders who hold French citizenship, including CNRP president Sam Rainsy, said they would not object to a law banning party presidents from holding dual nationalities, proposed this week by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The premier on Monday ordered lawmakers from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to “start work” next year on an amendment to the law on political parties, which, he said, would stop people who “face trouble” from fleeing abroad.

The remarks appeared personally targeted at Rainsy, who fled to Europe in November to avoid prison on charges widely perceived as politically motivated.

Via email yesterday, the Cambodia National Rescue Party president said he had “no problem” with the law, but called for consistency, noting that King Norodom Sihamoni was also a dual national, with French citizenship, as were many CPP cabinet members, who were in a position to “really harm” Cambodia if a conflict of interest arose concerning their dual citizenship.

Rainsy did not directly say he would renounce his French citizenship or step down.

“With or without the dual citizenship issue, my position is up to the CNRP supporters and my colleagues,” he said.

“In order to serve Cambodia, there will be no problem for me to adapt to a new situation once it occurs, but I expect consistency on the part of everybody.”

More explicit were Prince Norodom Ranariddh, leader of the royalist Funcinpec party, which failed to win a seat in the 2013 election, and Mam Sonando, who revived his Democratic Society Beehive Party this year. Both said unequivocally that they would renounce their French nationality.

“If the National Assembly passes a law limiting party presidents to only one nationality, I would support it,” said Ranariddh, who also spent time abroad in self-imposed exile after being charged with fraud in 2007.

Sonando also said he supported the law but went further, saying the principle should restrict voters as well, singling out the Vietnamese, saying only those of Khmer origin should be allowed to cast a ballot.

Spring-boarding off the dual nationalities issue, Sonando said the ruling Cambodian People’s Party should have to reform to contest the election because it was “not created by Khmer” but by the Vietnamese, a reference to Vietnam’s military backing of the CPP’s forerunner, the People’s Republic of Kampuchea government, often used to attack the government.

One member of the diplomatic community who requested anonymity said it was justifiable to demand sole citizenship in some key public offices, such as those concerning national security or public order.

However, the premier’s proposal infringed upon the Cambodian constitution and international civil and political rights, including the right of assembly, within which a group is permitted to organise itself freely, he said.

“I have yet to get a plausible explanation why such a grave restriction of a constitutional right as it has been proposed should apply to party chairs. Which national interests are at stake here?” they said.

“Should not party members – and ultimately the Cambodian voters – decide for themselves whether the party functionary in question is a true patriot who wishes only the best for his country or not?

“Also, a law which – as intended in the present context – addresses an extremely limited number of individual cases is hardly [if ever] compatible with the rule of law, which demands a general and non-discriminatory [or non-preferential] approach in law-making.”

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