Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen spins demise of CNRP into boon for democracy

Hun Sen spins demise of CNRP into boon for democracy

People read a Supreme Court summons requesting evidence from the CNRP posted outside the party headquarters after a closed door meeting on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing crackdown on the opposition.
People read a Supreme Court summons requesting evidence from the CNRP posted outside the party headquarters after a closed door meeting on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing crackdown on the opposition. Heng Chivoan

Hun Sen spins demise of CNRP into boon for democracy

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday embraced a proposal to redistribute the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s National Assembly seats “when” – not if – the party is dissolved, while praising the solution as a boon for democracy.

“They talk about the multi-party problem, but I want to confirm that when the one party is dissolved, there will be five parties that will replace it. That means that it will go from two parties to six parties in the National Assembly,” Hun Sen said in a speech to 20,000 migrant workers in Phnom Penh, adding the dissolution would happen “soon”.

His comments were in reference to legal amendments proposed by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to redistribute CNRP seats to five minor parties. The idea for the redistribution, which gives parties with very marginal popular support assembly seats, was first floated by government-aligned media source Fresh News. It would require an amendment to the Law on Elections of Members of the National Assembly during the next session of parliament, which will be boycotted by the CNRP.

“Currently, there are dozens of political parties in Cambodia, and it is a heaven for political parties and NGOs,” Hun Sen said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Source: National Election Committee. Designed by Jenni Reid

But despite the sometimes crowded ballots, the only two parties that have shown an ability to mobilise large numbers of voters are the CPP and CNRP, which took 48 percent and 44 percent of the popular vote, respectively, in the 2013 national election. The next runner-up, the royalist Funcinpec party, captured just 3.66 percent of the vote, failing to win a single seat after a decades long slide into irrelevance.

Nonetheless, under the proposed redistribution, it would take 41 of the CNRP’s 55 seats in parliament – nearly 45 percent of the body’s 123 votes.

In spite of Hun Sen’s lavish praise of the Kingdom’s political system, observers yesterday were much less optimistic.

“Cambodia may have many NGOs on paper but there is virtually no space left for independent human rights NGOs to operate on a day-to-day basis without being threatened or/and surveilled,” said Naly Pilorge, of rights NGO Licadho.

In his speech, given on Veng Sreng Boulevard, the premier also suggested the CNRP’s dissolution would be karmic justice for what he claimed was its role in that street’s fatal protests in 2013. The wage demonstrations, which were not officially linked to the CNRP and ultimately turned violent, were put down when security forces fired into the crowd, killing at least five.

Hun Sen, however, claimed the government had found the “mastermind of the colour revolution”. “The gods have eyes,” he added.

Though the protests coincided with ongoing nonviolent opposition demonstrations, the CNRP has long denied provoking the confrontation.

Now the opposition finds itself with more than half of its lawmakers abroad, its president in prison and its demise seemingly imminent. Nonetheless, CNRP lawyers Sam Sokong and Peng Heng said the party has not requested their help to fight a formal complaint from the Ministry of Interior requesting the party’s dissolution, currently in the Supreme Court’s hands.

Former Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mao Monyvann speaks at an event on Sunday.
Former Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mao Monyvann speaks at an event on Sunday. Facebook

“They haven’t given us any power of attorney,” Heng said.

CNRP lawmaker Mao Monyvann said the reason for the CNRP’s silence was simple.

“The party does not need to prepare a lawyer ... It is impossible to stop even if we prepared 1,000 lawyers. What documents are we going to show, since we have never done anything? We just debated in a democratic manner, that is all,” he said.

Two previous rounds of alterations to the nation’s political laws – rammed through by the ruling party this year – forbade parties from associating with convicted criminals or colluding with foreign powers. CNRP President Kem Sokha is currently facing widely decried charges of “treason” after saying he received US advice on political strategy.

“When [the ruling party] want to do something, they will do it,” Monyvann said. “In the [party] standing committee meeting, we have already discussed this case and we do not care about it.”

Lee Morgenbesser, a Griffith University researcher who specialises in authoritarian regimes, said the question of how the CNRP can avoid dissolution is “moot at this point”.

“Given the move today to redistribute the CNRP’s assembly seats, it is pretty clear that the CPP government is not backing down,” Morgenbesser said via email yesterday, referring to the leaked draft outlining the redistribution plans. “Any action that relies on existing state institutions as a basis for survival is pointless.”

MOST VIEWED

  • All Covid restrictions for inbound travellers lifted

    Cambodia has apparently taken the final step towards full reopening of the country without Covid-19 restrictions by removing all requirements for inbound travellers, who until now had to show health certificates indicating that they have tested Covid-19 negative in the past 72 hours as well as

  • Typhoon Noru brings flash floods – 16 dead

    An official warned that that the 16th typhoon of the season, Noru, had brought heavy rains to areas the Mekong River and flooded thousands of homes in the provinces bordering Thailand. As of September 27, the death toll from the flooding had risen to 16. National Committee

  • Cambodia stands firm on 5PC: No invite for Myanmar to ASEAN Summit this year

    Cambodia has not invited Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, chairman of Myanmar’s ruling State Administration Council (SAC), to the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summit and related meetings scheduled for next month in Phnom Penh. The government will instead invite a non-political representative from Myanmar

  • Mushrooming borey projects and home financing – a cause for concern?

    A spurt in housing developments is typically a sign of a growing economy but underneath all that might lay some anxiety of credit growth as developers offer financing to buyers at higher rates, an activity the central bank identifies as ‘shadow banking’ Earlier this year,

  • Thai Senate delegates in Cambodia to discuss anti-graft co-op

    A delegation from Thailand's Senate was in Phnom Penh on September 28 to meet their Cambodian counterparts to discuss strategies for fighting corruption and enhancing cooperation. The Thai delegates were from its Senate’s Committee on Studying and Inspecting Corruption, Misconduct and Strengthening Good Governance. They

  • Scholarship winner tells secrets to success

    Chhim Chaknineath was awarded the Chevening Scholarship for one year of postgraduate study in the UK for the academic year 2022-2023 along with a group of 10 other outstanding students who applied. She spent more than a year researching and studying – as well as consulting with