Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday suggested that he backed the idea of expanding single-nationality restrictions – recently agreed upon for members of a revamped National Election Committee – to cover National Assembly members, senators and government officials.
But the premier, speaking to hundreds of senior officials at a workshop on judicial laws at Phnom Penh’s InterContinental hotel, said that now was not the right time for such a move, which would affect many ministers and parliamentarians, including opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
“Now, if [anyone] wants to expand [this single-nationality restriction] please come forward … in the Constitutional Council, the Senate, the National Assembly and in the government. But now, we should not expand [it],” he said.
The premier added that while many in his ruling Cambodian People’s Party also possess multiple citizenships – while the opposition is well-known for being stacked with dual nationals – they might in future have to give up any nationality other than Cambodian.
“If you are a patriot, you [would have] to resign from your foreign nationality and serve the nation,” he said.
Hun Sen specifically referred to Var Kimhong, the senior minister in charge of border affairs, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana, and Women’s Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi as examples.
Chheang Vun, an outspoken CPP lawmaker who gained French nationality in 1987, said he would comply with any future law to that effect.
“French nationality is no longer important for me, because now I live in Cambodia and it will be my obligation to do it when there is a mandatory requirement for resignation [of other nationalities],” he said
Rainsy has said that he would give up his French nationality if a single-nationality requirement was placed on holding the prime ministership.
Opposition whip Son Chhay yesterday said the premier’s suggestion was inappropriate given the “special” situation that Cambodians are in with regard to dual citizenships.
“The killing fields in the 1970s and then the invasion forces of foreign countries . . . caused a lot of people to take refuge in another country,” he said.
“The PM himself left Cambodia to Vietnam, so I think that trying to raise the issue of dual nationality is not appropriate . . . It’s something that happened without choice [for Cambodians].”
The issue, even though it would also affect CPP officials, was political, Chhay said, adding that any such restriction would not benefit the Kingdom.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH