A Khmer National Liberation Front member released from prison on Tuesday after serving his 18-month sentence is now aiming to create a new political party and lobby the government to delist the group from its terror organisations list.
KNLF member Thuy Vy was arrested in May last year and was charged with incitement. At the time, Mr Vy had attempted to organise a press conference with NGOs in Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district.
Authorities claimed that the press conference was meant to incite the public and cause chaos. In court, Mr Vy said that the press conference was meant to issue a request for the government to release political prisoners and human rights defenders.
Mr Vy is now seeking to establish a political party in order to push for a pardon for exiled KNLF leader Sam Serey.
Yesterday, Mr Vy said 18 other KNLF members are currently imprisoned for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government.
“I want the government to acknowledge that the KNLF is not a terror group,” he said. “I will gather our members and form a political party and meet the requirements of the law. I will also write a letter to request for the release of other KNLF members.”
Mr Vy said he will organise a press conference soon to announce the creation of the party.
“I do not care if I will be arrested again,” he said. “This time, the press conference will help people understand the creation of the KNLF party.”
Since 2014, about 20 KNLF members have been convicted of incitement and plotting to topple the government. Each member received between one to ten years in jail.
This year alone, a total of 12 suspects have been apprehended for allegedly being connected to the KNLF. The 12 suspects are now in jail pending trial over an alleged plot to overthrow the government.
Mr Serey yesterday said he hopes the KNLF can be reborn.
“The KNLF has always been accused, persecuted and arrested – and we are not allowed to register in Cambodia as a political party,” he said. “Now after pressure from the European Union, United States and others in the international community on Hun Sen’s regime, the government is releasing political prisoners – except KNLF members.”
“I’m not sure if they will allow me to register while I am still a political prisoner,” Mr Serey added.
Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak yesterday said the government will not allow terrorist organisations to become political parties.
“I have not seen the request letter yet. However, it is impossible to register them as a political party,” Gen Sopheak said. “This guy [Mr Vy] can make the request, but we will have to see first what the law says.”