The Khmer National United Party is to hold a party congress this month to hand back its presidency to former leader Nhek Bun Chhay who was granted bail on drug production charges.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court released him last month under court supervision after he was detained in August over a 2007 drug production case in Kampong Speu province.
Under the Law on Political Parties, Mr Bun Chhay is allowed to return to his party position because he has not been convicted.
Sitting president Soeung Kiry said the congress would be held on June 9 at the party headquarters in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changva district.
“I have health problems and cannot lead the party so we have decided to hand over the presidency to him,” Mr Kiry said, noting that he would remain as a member of the party’s permanent committee.
“When Mr Bun Chhay is back as president we hope to get a majority of votes because he has lots of supporters,” he added, referencing the upcoming national election in July.
The KNUP drew the number one ballot spot among 20 political parties taking part in the national election on July 29.
Mr Bun Chhay said he could not comment further, but Mr Kiry said the former leader had returned a few days ago from Thailand where he had been getting medical treatment, noting that Mr Bun Chhay’s health condition had improved.
Mr Bun Chhay was deputy commander-in-chief of the country’s military when Funcinpec shared power with the CPP during the 1990s.
In 2016, he left Funcinpec to launch the KNUP, which become the only party outside of the CPP and CNRP to win a commune chief post in the June 2017 commune elections.
However, after the commune elections he was stripped of his role as a government adviser following rumours he was working with the opposition CNRP. More than ten KNUP party officials were also removed from their positions within the government.
Mr Bun Chhay was placed in pretrial detention in August over old drug production accusations after his former personal adviser, Chea Chung, who had been convicted earlier over the 2007 case, fingered him as the ringleader.