Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday hinted that former opposition leader Kem Sokha could be included on a list of former opposition members who will likely soon see a five-year ban on political activity lifted.
The National Assembly is currently studying an amendment to the Law on Political Parties that would nullify a ban on some of the 118 former opposition CNRP members barred from politics for five years by the Supreme Court.
Speaking to reporters in Phnom Penh yesterday, Mr Kheng said he will thoroughly consider allowing each of the politicians to return to politics once the amendment of article 45 is adopted and comes into force next week.
“I think those who have respected the Supreme Court’s verdict, they will be prioritised,” Mr Kheng said.
Asked if he would request to lift Mr Sokha’s ban, Mr Kheng said: “If we think of those who have obeyed the court’s decision, we already know who they are. I do not want to say [his name].”
The CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court last year after Mr Sokha was arrested on treason charges for allegedly colluding with the US to topple the government through a colour revolution. Its 118 senior members were also barred from politics for five years.
Mr Sokha was released on bail from Tboung Khmum province’s Trapeang Phlong prison on September 10 after a year behind bars without trial.
His bail conditions ban him from making trips abroad and confine him to a four-block radius surrounding his home in Tuol Kork district’s Boeng Kak II commune.
Meng Sopheary, one of Mr Sokha’s lawyers, said yesterday that Mr Sokha distanced himself from politics after being jailed for more than a year.
“If my client is unbanned and able to return to politics, I, his lawyer, welcome the government’s decision. It will be a positive sign for national reconciliation,” Ms Sopheary said. “After my client’s release on bail, he has been placed under court supervision and he has had no political activities.”
The National Assembly is now reviewing legal provisions by inserting a paragraph into article 45 so that anyone banned by the Supreme Court from doing politics, standing for election or joining any political parties will have their rights restored.
The National Assembly said in the statement this week that “any persons, who are banned by the court from doing political activities, will be granted their full rights to do politics after passing the validity of the ban defined by the Supreme Court’s verdict or in case those persons are granted rehabilitation by the King according to requests by the Prime Minister and Interior Minister”.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry on Monday issued an outline of steps being taken by the government to appease the European Union after it began procedures to revoke the Everything-but-arms treaty based upon perceived setbacks to democracy, human rights and media freedom.
US Embassy spokeswoman Emily Zeeberg said in an email on Tuesday that the US embassy is urging the government to drop all charges against Mr Sokha and end the ban on former opposition members.