Hundreds of former opposition members banned from politics could return to the arena after the National Assembly yesterday approved an amendment to the Law on Political Parties.
National Assembly president Heng Samrin and 115 CPP lawmakers inserted a new paragraph into article 45 of the law.
The new paragraph says: “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.”
Cheam Yeap, a CPP lawmaker and one of 87 lawmakers who proposed the amendment, yesterday said it was to strengthen the roles of political parties and their responsibilities, uphold multi-party democracy and strengthen the nation’s security, independence and sovereignty.
“The amendment on the Law on Political Parties is to promote national unity and strengthen multi-party democracy in Cambodia,” Mr Yeap said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay yesterday said the move was made following threats of the removal of the Everything-but-arms treaty by the European Union.
“It was to thwart the United States and the EU’s plan to sanction Cambodian rulers who were destroying democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Cambodia,” Mr Mong Hay said.
Mr Yeap denied that the move was made due to international pressure.
“We deny how some groups are saying that the amendment was made because of pressure from foreigners,” he said. “In fact, this amendment was made in the spirit of national unity and mercy of the Cambodian People’s Party by respecting multi-party democracy.”
Mr Yeap added that the government will soon send the amended law to the King.
Former opposition lawmaker Ou Chanrath yesterday said he welcomes the move, but noted that the ban should be directly lifted instead of going through a process.
“This is serious pressure for the 118 people,” he said. “They will hesitate to make a request.”
“If no one ends up filing a request, then the honour of the government will be impacted,” Mr Chanrath added. “It was the government who pushed for the law to open up.”
He noted that former opposition leader Sam Rainsy has discouraged the banned politicians from requesting a return to politics from the Prime Minister.
“It would have been better to have the ban lifted without a request because the government dissolved the party and banned everyone in one go,” Mr Chanrath said. “As for myself, I am hesitant to file a request because I think Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen are playing to make the lives of all 118 people difficult.”
Eng Chhay Eang, a former opposition party member, posted on Facebook that he will not request to be allowed back into the political arena.
“We do not need to ask political rights from a dictator,” Mr Chhay Eang said. “Our political rights were given at birth and guaranteed by the constitution of the Kingdom.”
However, not all banned politicians share the same sentiment as Mr Chhay Eang.
Kong Korm, former opposition senior official, yesterday said he has already prepared his documents for his request.
“I am preparing the request documents to have my ban removed when the law comes into effect,” Mr Korm said. “The nation never betrayed Sam Rainsy, but Sam Rainsy betrayed the nation.”