The National Assembly will hold a plenary session on Thursday to amend the Law on Political Parties that would nullify a ban on some of the 118 former opposition CNRP members barred from politics for five years.
Parliament’s Permanent Committee yesterday agreed to insert a paragraph into article 45 of the law so that anyone banned by the Supreme Court from doing politics, standing for election or joining any political parties will have their rights restored.
The proposed amendment said that “any persons, who are banned by the court from doing political activities, will be granted their full rights to do politics after passing the validity of the ban defined by the Supreme Court’s verdict or in case those persons are granted rehabilitation by the King according to requests by the Prime Minister and Interior Minister”.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun said the amendment aimed to fill the gap of the law and to encourage banned politicians to return to politics, so long as they have to date respected the Supreme Court’s verdict.
“The amendment will apply to all the 118 CNRP former opposition members and politicians from other parties as well, but what is important is that those who have respected the court’s verdict until now will be eligible,” Mr Vun said. “Kem Sokha would not be discriminated against.”
Mr Vun noted that Mr Sokha, the former opposition leader, could be included on a list of former opposition members who will likely soon see their five-year ban on political activity lifted, adding that his treason charges are a different matter.
“I would like to stress that it’s two different cases. Mr Sokha is charged with treason in accordance with criminal law,” he said. “He is being barred from politics under the law on political parties. So whatever happens, the court still continues its procedure on Mr Sokha.”
The amendment comes as the European Union last month began a formal procedure to strip Cambodia of its Everything-but-arms initiative based on perceived setbacks to democracy.
The 118 former CNRP members were barred from politics by the Supreme Court as the party was dissolved in the wake of Mr Sokha’s arrest on the treason charges for allegedly colluding with the US to topple the government.
Exiled former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who has been appointed as the acting president of the dissolved CNRP, took to Facebook to denounce the amendment.
“On behalf of the 118 CNRP officials who have been banned from politics… I want to tell Mr Hun Sen that he doesn’t need to reconsider our cases because we are not interested in recovering our political rights as long as Mr Kem Sokha has not recovered his full freedom and as long as all charges against him have not been dropped,” Mr Rainsy said yesterday.
“I can speak for those 118 CNRP officials because I know them well since they received their positions when I was CNRP president,” he added.
Kem Monovithya, Mr Sokha’s daughter, said on Twitter on Monday that Mr Rainsy has lied to the diplomatic community.
“Sam Rainsy just circulated a lie to the diplomatic community that Sokha, lawyers & family voices are invalid and directed by the ruling party,” she wrote. “We once again denounce Sam Rainsy’s smear campaign to undermine Kem Sokha’s position/voice.”
Mr Sokha has noted that he does not recognise the move made during a CNRP conference in the US to appoint Mr Rainsy as acting president.