Several former opposition CNRP members met over the weekend to discuss the possibility of applying to have their political ban lifted, a move that has only been made by three so far.
Three former CNRP members, Kong Korm and his son Kong Bora, as well as Sim Sovanny, have had their political bans lifted following requests to Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
They were among 118 CNRP politicians banned from politics by the Supreme Court in November 2017 when the party was dissolved.
Mr Sovanny yesterday said that some senior CNRP members recently gathered and discussed how they can avoid being branded as traitors by Sam Rainsy if they file a request to return to politics before the Khmer New Year deadline set by Mr Hun Sen last week.
“We met for two days in a row and some of us former senior members and lawmakers are willing to file requests,” he said. “I cannot say how many among the remaining, but some of them will.”
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath yesterday said he acknowledges that some former CNRP members are hesitant about filing the request because of Mr Rainsy’s call but are now under pressure after Mr Hun Sen set the deadline.
“I know that some of us want to return to politics but do not want to be branded as traitors by Mr Rainsy,” he said. “Personally, I cannot decide yet because while I want to have my political ban lifted I’m worried that if I file for the request, I will not be able to exercise my political rights freely.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn yesterday said the government has so far been tolerant with the 118 former CNRP members in an attempt to strengthen national reconciliation.
“Making a request to either Prime Minister Hun Sen or Interior Minister Sar Kheng is required under the amended political parties law,” he said. “It’s those people’s right to file requests. The government is not forcing them.”
Meanwhile, Mr Hun Sen yesterday slammed Mr Rainsy following the latter’s continuing attacks against him.
Mr Rainsy, an exiled former CNRP leader, has repeatedly called on the people and soldiers to stand up against Mr Hun Sen’s leadership and cautioned former party members against seeking a pardon to return to politics.
Speaking during a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, Mr Hun Sen said he will not allow Mr Rainsy to continue attacking him.
“That scoundrel [Rainsy]… He has fled the country. He took to Facebook picking on me to cause problems,” he said. “I cannot strive for national reconciliation with this person. How can we reunite? There is no way. He is damn bad.”