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Senate passes controversial legal amendments to sideline Rainsy

Senate President Say Chum speaks at the National Assembly session today in Phnom Penh.
Senate President Say Chum speaks at the senate session today in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Senate passes controversial legal amendments to sideline Rainsy

The Cambodian Senate, as predicted, passed contentious changes to the Law on Political Parties this morning in a bid to erase self-exiled opposition figure Sam Rainsy from Cambodia’s political scene.

The amendments – which prohibit a party from using the image, voice or written materials of a convicted criminal – were passed by the National Assembly last week, and expressly targeted the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president, who has a slew of convictions to his name in what observers characterise as politically-motivated defamation and incitement cases.

Rainsy was forced to resign from his party’s presidency earlier this year or face its forced dissolution following a previous round of amendments to the law finalised in March.

Of the 50 ruling Cambodian People’s Party senators, 42 were present and unanimously supported all of the controversial changes, which were forwarded to the Senate floor as a matter of “urgency”.

The proposed new changes were aligned with “free multiparty democracy” and would “strengthen the rule of law”, the Senate maintained in a press statement.

“This law proposal also refers to the promotion of rights and the duty of every Khmer citizen … [and] the rights, obligation and responsibility of every political party to guarantee proper respect according the constitution and the law,” the statement said.

The Sam Rainsy Party’s 11 senators chose to boycott the Senate vote, said SRP senator Teav Vannol.

“The political amendments are not serving the Cambodian people. That law just targets individuals,” he said.

“We send a strong message when we boycott.”

The amendments were sent back to the National Assembly today and will be sent to the Constitutional Council tomorrow. They must still be signed by the King before they are brought into effect.

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