As the amendment to the Law on Political Parties awaits approval from the King, former opposition members on two sides of a leadership divide within the CNRP seem to have different plans when it comes to having their political bans lifted.
Following the amendment, former opposition party members banned from politics by the Supreme Court could re-enter politics after making a request to either Prime Minister Hun Sen or Interior Minister Sar Kheng.
But not all of the banned politicians have plans to make the request, as those loyal to Sam Rainsy, who was appointed acting president of the CNRP, thumb their noses at the opportunity.
Ou Chanrath, a former opposition lawmaker, yesterday said the amendment is further fracturing the CNRP, which is already suffering from a divide between those who support Mr Rainsy and those loyal to Kem Sokha, who remains under court supervision on treason charges.
“Most of the banned former opposition members are hesitating, and we are still observing things because making such a request would not benefit us,” Mr Chanrath said. “I think Rainsy’s supporters would reject to make a request while most of Sokha’s supporters would consider this.”
Mr Chanrath noted the intra-party conflict is reflected in those who may and may not make the request for their bans from politics to be lifted.
“If the ruling CPP really had intentions to promote democracy and avoid international pressure, clearing Mr Sokha is the key,” he added. “If Mr Sokha had his charges dropped, perhaps even the ban would disappear.”
The CNRP was founded in 2012 after merging Mr Rainsy’s Sam Rainsy Party with Kem Sokha’s Human Rights Party. Mr Rainsy served as the new party’s president, but stepped down while in exile in February 2017 in favour of Mr Sokha, who was then vice president.
Mr Rainsy was appointed as acting president of the CNRP last month by his supporters during a two-day conference in the United States, a move dismissed by Mr Sokha’s supporters.
About half the CNRP’s former lawmakers, including its vice president Mu Sochua, spokesmen Yim Sovann and Yem Ponhearith, as well as senior members Eng Chhai Eang, Son Chhay, and Ou Chanrith, fled the country following Mr Sokha’s arrest in September 2017.
Mr Chhai Eang and Ms Sochua, who remain loyal to Mr Rainsy, recently took to Facebook to announce that they will not make the request.
“We do not need to request political rights from a dictator,” Mr Chhai Eang said. “We were born with this right and it is ensured by the constitution which is the top law in the Kingdom.”
Kong Korm, who is among the 118 officials banned from politics, yesterday said he will make the request and likely become an adviser to his son’s Khmer Will Party.
“The CNRP cannot be reinstated. Mr Rainsy and Mr Sokha do not trust each other. They may even ruin each other someday,” he said. “I want to return to politics in order to make changes for the country.”
Pol Hom, a former vice president of the CNRP, said he has not yet decided if he will make the request to re-enter politics.
“I have not decided,” he said. “I’m now banned from politics, so I do not have any update on that.”