Senators yesterday approved an amendment to the Law on Political Parties, bringing former opposition members banned from politics one step closer to re-entering the political arena.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved by the Supreme Court last year after its leader Kem Sokha was arrested on treason charges for allegedly colluding with the US government to topple the government. Its 118 senior members were also barred from politics for five years.
The Senate held a plenary session yesterday to adopt the amendment after the National Assembly approved it on December 13.
Senate president Say Chhum and 56 other senators approved the amendment without making changes. King Norodom Sihamoni is expected to sign off on the amendment in the upcoming days.
Senator Chhay Vanna yesterday said the amendment, which nullifies the ban imposed by the Supreme Court, was made to guarantee national unity.
“The amendment complies with the rule of law and it strengthens the spirit of national unity and multi-party democracy in our Kingdom,” Mr Vanna said.
Senator Tep Yuthy yesterday said Cambodia had learnt from experiences after the 2013 election.
Mr Vuthy said former opposition party leaders instigated social chaos and attempted a colour revolution to topple the government, causing the party to be dissolved and its members banned from politics.
He noted that the amendment to the Law on Political Parties is of national interest.
“We support the amendment because it is a clear vision for national unity, security and reconciliation,” Mr Vuthy said. “We really promoted virtues to ensure political careers.”
Senate spokesman Mam Bun Neang yesterday said the amendment would allow banned politicians to return, but only after filing a clemency request to Prime Minister Hun Sen or Interior Minister Sar Kheng. King Sihamoni would then have the final say on who will get amnesty.
Mr Bun Neang also noted that the amendment was not made due to international pressure.
“The international community, they cannot put pressure on us,” he said. “When the law comes into effect, it will show smooth implementation of it. It is a law that provides rehabilitation for those who love their nation.”
“Please, do not be confused. This is a law that targets those who have respected the decision made by the Supreme Court,” Mr Bun Neang added. “It cannot be a person who has impacted social issues and national security. Those who went against the decision made by the Supreme Court will not receive rehabilitation.”
However, political analyst Lao Mong Hay yesterday said Cambodians can only enjoy full civil and political rights by reverting the constitution back to its original state in 1993.
Last week, CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun met with French National Assembly member Sylvain Waserman to discuss Cambodia’s Everything-but-arms preferential status with the European Union.
The Kingdom’s EBA status is under review by the EU over perceived setback to democracy and human rights.