Former opposition party member Sim Sovanny has become the latest to have his ban on politics lifted after he made a request to Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday.
Mr Sovanny was one of 118 CNRP politicians banned from politics by the Supreme Court in 2017 as it dissolved the party.
The final approval for the lift was granted by King Norodom Sihamoni on Saturday. In January, former opposition party adviser Kong Korm and his son Kong Bora became the first to have their ban on politics lifted.
“This grants political rights to Sim Sovanny […], who was banned from doing political activities for five years by a Supreme Court verdict on November 16, 2017,” a royal decree said.
Yesterday, Mr Sovanny said he was grateful to the King for lifting his ban, adding that other banned politicians should make the request to have their rights restored.
“It’s the only thing I can do to resume my political life. I acknowledge the fact that some politicians are uncertain about making such a decision, but I hope Mr Hun Sen and Mr Sam Rainsy could sit down and talk to resolve their issues,” he said.
The National Assembly amended the Law on Political Parties to pave the way for banned politicians to return to politics. In order to return, banned former opposition members are required to file a request to Mr Hun Sen or Interior Minister Sar Kheng.
The move was heavily criticised by exiled former opposition leader Sam Rainsy who said anyone who filed for a request would be branded as a traitor to CNRP.
Since the dissolution of the party and the jailing of former opposition leader Kem Sokha, part of what is left of the CNRP is being led by Mr Rainsy overseas, a move condemned by Mr Sokha. Mr Sovanny said he is still loyal to Mr Sokha.
“There’s a rift in the CNRP. I do not think Mr Rainsy will ever fulfil his promise,” he said. “I would follow Mr Sokha and hope that other former CNRP officials will understand this.”
Mr Sovanny began his political career with the Funcinpec party in 1991. He joined the Sam Rainsy Party in 2005 and was elected as a commune council member in Kampong Cham province.
In 2007, Mr Sovanny left the Sam Rainsy Party and joined Mr Sokha’s Human Rights Party. The SRP and the HRP then merged in 2012 to form the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath yesterday said he respected Mr Sovanny’s choice in filing for a request.
“I respect Mr Sovanny’s decision. He sacrificed his time and money for the party for over a decade. I believe he did it for a clear purpose,” Mr Chanrath said. “I urge other former CNRP officials to not look down on him or insult him.”
He added that he remains optimistic that Cambodian politicians will soon be mature and be united in restoring the country’s democracy and unity.
“I hope Mr Kheng or Mr Hun Sen will consider the collective lifting of the ban for some former opposition party members who have complied with the Supreme Court decision,” he said.