Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to create a new law barring political party leaders from holding dual nationalities, an apparent move to further incapacitate beleaguered CNRP president Sam Rainsy.
In his latest tirade against his long-time political rival, the premier also vowed to never again request a royal pardon for Rainsy, who in November entered his third stint of self-imposed exile to avoid prison on charges widely perceived as politically motivated.
Addressing more than 3,000 graduating students at the Koh Pich Center in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen yesterday called for two amendments to the Law on Political Parties, both appearing to be personally aimed at Rainsy, who also holds French citizenship.
“I would like to stress that the culture of dialogue will be included into the law on political parties, and you [Rainsy] will be punished if you continue insulting … not only during the political campaign; the law must be respected by all,” Hun Sen said.
He also said political party leaders, and certain heads of institutions, would have to renounce dual citizenship under the amendment.
“This is to avoid people who face trouble [in the country] and hold a foreign passport from easily running out of the country and calling for foreigners to intervene,” Hun Sen said.
“CPP has enough forces [lawmakers] to vote for [an amendment] to the law on political parties and will start to work [on it] next year.”
As for institutional heads to be restricted to Cambodian citizenship, he singled out the presidents of the Constitutional Council, National Assembly, the Senate, the Anti-Corruption Council, the National Audit Authority and the Supreme Court, as well its prosecutor secretary-general.
Yesterday, political analyst Ou Virak said the move appeared to be yet another attempt to drive a wedge in the CNRP and get followers to abandon Rainsy for his deputy, Kem Sokha.
However, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the proposal wasn’t a political ploy but a way to “strengthen state laws”, adding that any amendments would first be discussed with the CNRP.
“The CPP has no strategy or culture to split the opposition party, and we welcome any president newly elected by law,” said Eysan.
Several members of the CNRP, as well as the heads of smaller parties such as Mam Sonando of the Beehive Democratic Society Party, and Sourn Serey Ratha, head of the Khmer Power Party, hold citizenship in other countries.
Responding yesterday, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said not only was Hun Sen’s proposal a clear effort to sideline his “greatest competitor”, but would also discourage skilled Cambodians from abroad from engaging in the Kingdom’s politics.
“Dual citizenship is not the problem. The problem in Cambodia right now is corruption. The problem in Cambodia now is rule of law. The problem in Cambodia now is human rights violations. It’s not dual citizenship.”
He also denied the CNRP would abandon Rainsy for acting president Sokha.
“That’s impossible,” he said.
Stripped of his status as a lawmaker, Rainsy fled to Europe in November after the surprise resurrection of a 2011 two-year prison sentence in a public incitement and defamation case brought by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.
He now faces two other lawsuits. The events are reminiscent of 2005 and 2009, when Rainsy fled abroad to avoid other charges seen as politically motivated.
Recalling how those events were used by the CNRP to garner popular support, Hun Sen said he would not oblige the CNRP president with another free pass.
“Now don’t be expectant; this time it is over for you. I declare that if I sign to request a pardon for [Sam Rainsy] for a third time, and this is my political message for the international new year, I will cut off my hand and throw it away,” Hun Sen said.
He also goaded Rainsy to return, telling him “don’t be afraid as Prey Sar prison opens its door”.