Kong Korm has been appointed as Khmer Will Party’s honorary president, making him the first former opposition official to re-enter the political arena after his political right was restored.
Earlier this month, King Norodom Sihamoni granted Mr Korm and his son Kong Bora royal pardons after it was approved by the Interior Ministry.
The pardon lifted a five-year political ban decided by the Supreme Court in 2017. The ban saw 118 CNRP lawmakers and officials barred from politics. The court also jailed Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Kem Sokha on treason charges and dissolved the party.
In a statement following a Sunday standing committee meeting, the KWP said members decided to grant Mr Korm “an actual official position”.
“The standing committee of the Khmer Will Party has unanimously decided to grant the position of honorary president of Khmer Will Party to Kong Korm,” the statement said.
Reached by phone yesterday, Mr Korm said he is ready to serve his party and the country.
“The party’s standing committee appointed me because they understood that I am a veteran politician with a lot of experience,” he said. “I am ready to help them.”
“I had the intention to return to politics ever since the beginning, but I was banned from doing so,” Mr Korm said, referring to his ban on politics. “The Khmer Will Party is a new sun – new choice and new change. I won’t lead or manage the party. I will only advise them”
Last week Mr Korm appeared before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and was asked about Mr Sokha’s treason case. The court also questioned him about his relationship with Mr Sokha and exiled former opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
“I told the judge that I only knew the fact that Mr Sam Rainsy and Mr Kem Sokha desired to form the CNRP in order to gain support and compete in the election against the ruling CPP,” he told reporters outside of the courtroom. “I said I had no idea about the relations Sokha had with foreigners,” he added. “I was surprised to see the video the judge showed me […] the dealings between Sokha and any foreigners, I had no clue.”
Former opposition lawmaker Kong Saphea, son of Mr Korm, earlier this month said he does not agree with his father’s and brother’s decision to return to politics.
“If we make a request to Mr Hun Sen to reinstate our political rights, it will mean that we have acknowledged the charges against Mr Kem Sokha [as true],” Mr Saphea said. “It will mean that we have lost because we were tricked by Mr Hun Sen – we would all be complicit in the destruction of the CNRP and democracy under Hun Sen’s regime.”
Mr Bora, Mr Korm’s other son, said he would return to his old post at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, noting that he would not return to politics.
“I don’t have any interest in working with the KWP yet because my father and younger brother are already working for the party,” Mr Bora said.
Kong Monika, Mr Korm’s youngest son is KWP president.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday commended Mr Korm on his new position.
“I respect the decision made by Mr Kong Korm. First he acknowledged the Supreme Court’s decision in receiving rehabilitation for his political right – he respected legal procedures and made a request from Samdech Techo Hun Sen,” Mr Siphan said. “Second he respected Cambodian laws and did not go against the court’s decision.”
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay yesterday said the appointment of Mr Korm as KWP honorary president came as no surprise, noting that the KWP should reflect the aspirations of voters.
“Quite understandable and not surprising,” Mr Mong Hay said. “A party is good when it can incarnate the people’s aspiration for change and turn this aspiration into policy, strategy and action.”