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Minor party head calls on King to change law

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CNJP president Heang Rithy, at an event last month in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Minor party head calls on King to change law

The leader of a minor party has appealed to King Norodom Sihamoni to intervene and change widely panned amendments to the country’s Political Parties Law, which are expected to be forwarded to him after passing the Senate today.

The amendments to the Law on Political Parties passed the National Assembly last week, and Cambodian National Justice Party president Heang Rithy yesterday sent letters to the Senate and the King requesting changes to the most controversial parts – Article 6 and Article 38.

The first forbids parties, in vague terms, from “inciting to break up national unity” and “affecting the security of the state”, while the second gives powers to the Ministry of Interior to file complaints to the Supreme Court if it deems a party has committed a serious offence – including a party leader being convicted of a crime. The court can then rapidly dissolve the party in question.

The amendments are widely believed to be aimed at the Cambodia National Rescue Party, whose members have frequently been at the centre of legally questionable cases.

Rithy – whose party has no seats in parliament, and recently agreed to cooperate with Nhek Bun Chhay’s Khmer National United Party in upcoming elections – said he penned the letters because the ruling party was using the law to “concentrate their power”.

“I must lobby and advocate for this, or in the future, in Cambodia, it will be an absolutist regime,” he said.

The amendments must be signed by the King before they come into effect, and King Sihamoni – who has preferred to steer clear of politics – has never before moved to block a law’s passage or seek its amendment.

Still, Rithy said he was hopeful the King would intervene. CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua, who has herself been tried in cases believed to be politically motived, said her party had not yet decided if they too would appeal to the King.

“We have sought His Majesty’s intervention in the past when we believed that national unity and citizens’ rights are at stake,” she said.

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