Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday said that an amendment to the law on political parties is needed to allow most of more than 100 former opposition CNRP members banned from politics for five years to return to politics.
Speaking at a workshop in Phnom Penh yesterday, Mr Kheng said the amendment on the law on political parties is required so that banned senior members of the now-dissolved CNRP will be able to return to politics in a bid to strengthen democracy and political space.
“Of the 118, some have disrespected the Supreme Court’s decision, but the majority have abided by it. We must admit this and be tolerant,” Mr Kheng said. “The Supreme Court banned 118 officials from political activities and its verdict cannot be appealed. It means there is no solution for them for five years. So, to solve this problem, the amendment is required.”
The CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court last year after its leader Kem Sokha was arrested on treason charges for allegedly colluding with the US to topple the government through a colour revolution. Its 118 senior members were also banned from politics for five years.
Mr Kheng said that the National Assembly is now reviewing legal provisions by inserting a paragraph into article 45 so that anyone banned by the Supreme Court from doing politics, standing for election or joining any political parties will have their rights restored.
“There is an amendment prepared by the government and it requires just one tenth of all parliamentarians to vote and lift the ban on those who have respected the court’s decision,” Mr Kheng said.
The National Assembly on Monday held a press conference following a Foreign Affairs Ministry statement, in which it said it will convene and amend an article to pave the way for more than 100 senior members of the now-dissolved CNRP to return to politics.
Mr Sokha expressed his support for the move yesterday, according to his lawyer Chan Chen.
“Whatever solution is meant for the national benefit in terms of democracy and human rights, Mr Sokha supports it,” Mr Chen said.
The amendment comes as the EU last month began a formal procedure to strip Cambodia of its “Everything but Arms (EBA)” initiative, after Prime Minister Hun Sen returned to power in a July general election in which his party won all 125 parliamentary seats.
The EU, the world’s largest trading bloc, recently launched a six-month review of Cambodia’s duty-free access, meaning its garments, sugar and other exports could face tariffs within 12 months, under EU rules.
EU Ambassador to Cambodia George Edgar yesterday addressed the government’s move while speaking to media.
“We certainly noted the announcement from the National Assembly,” he said. “This is certainly a positive step.”
Mr Edgar added that the law on political parties currently does not include an appeal mechanism for politicians banned from politics, something any law that penalises people must have.
Mr Edgar said that he also took note of the Foreign Affairs Ministry statement issued on Monday which outlined steps being taken by the government to improve democracy.
“There were a lot of positives in that statement and we look forward to seeing it in practise,” he said.
As for the EBA, Mr Edgar said talks between senior government officials on both sides are continuing and it’s too early to reach any conclusions.