Meach Sovannara vows return to political stage

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Meach Sovannara leads a press conference in Phnom Penh yesterday. KT/Mai Vireak

Meach Sovannara, a former CNRP official who was released from jail after a royal pardon, yesterday vowed to return to politics to challenge Prime Minister Hun Sen’s sons following medical treatment overseas.

Mr Sovannara, former head of the now-dissolved CNRP’s information department, and 13 party activists yesterday received a Buddhist water blessing at Phnom Penh’s Wat Chas pagoda after they received pardons from King Norodom Sihamoni and were freed from Prey Sar prison on Monday night.

The 14 men were found guilty of leading and participating in an insurrection after a violent clash between party supporters and Daun Penh district security guards at Freedom Park on July 15, 2014. The 14 men were jailed for the past three years.

Mr Sovannara had been sentenced to 20 years in prison and the 13 others were sentenced to between seven and 20 years.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Mr Sovannara said he will fly to the United States to reunite with his family and undergo medical treatment before returning to the country to again enter politics to challenge Mr Hun Sen’s sons.

“I have to continue politics because I was jailed for a political motive. I do not see any reason that I have to go into exile,” he said. “I want to compete with younger generations of Mr Hun Sen, including Hun Manet, Hun Manith and Hun Many.”

The former CNRP members get a water blessing yesterday after their royal pardons. KT/Mai Vireak

“Mr Hun Sen is a smart, senior politician. I believe that he will let his children continue politics. He is in his 70s now. He is getting old. His sons are intellectuals and scholars. They obtained doctorates of law and military studies, but I hold a masters in political science so we can work together in politics,” Mr Sovannara said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan welcomed Mr Sovannara’s remark and encouraged him to take part in politics in order to produce more constructive ideas to further develop the Kingdom.

“Cambodia is a democratic country, so citizens are encouraged to exercise their rights in politics. I am not sure if Sovannara is one of the 118 former CNRP members who are banned from politics for five years. If he is barred, I think he can do it after five years,” Mr Siphan said.

The 118 former senior officials of the CNRP were barred from politics after the party was dissolved by the Supreme Court in the wake of its leader Kem Sokha being jailed on treason charges in September.

Mr Sovannara also praised Mr Hun Sen yesterday for intervening for the release of him and other political prisoners in a move to restore national reconciliation and political negotiations.

Mr Sovannara appealed to Mr Hun Sen to seek more royal pardons and release Mr Sokha who remains jailed awaiting trial.

“I believe that Cambodian leaders are very smart. I hope that Prime Minister Hun Sen will consider seeking a pardon for my leader Kem Sokha. He has been in prison for too long,” he said.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court will on Thursday visit Mr Sokha in prison in Tboung Khmum province for a hearing on whether to extend his pre-trial detention by another six months, or possibly release him on bail.

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