The National Assembly swiftly passed further amendments to the political parties law yesterday, essentially banning former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy from any political activity.
The amendments to the Law on Political Parties follow previous changes that resulted in Mr Rainsy stepping down as the opposition’s leader.
The law was first amended in March, outlawing anyone convicted of crimes from becoming president or deputy president of a political party.
Yesterday’s amendments, which were passed by 66 CPP lawmakers as the CNRP boycotted the session, bar convicts from being affiliated with political parties in any way, including the use of their voice or images.
“We have banned all political parties from taking the opportunity for political gain by using pictures of convicts as well as the voices of convicts for political messages,” CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun said during the session.
Mr Vun added that those criticising the new amendments, including the CNRP who have labelled it unconstitutional, have errors in their judgement.
“The amendments affect political parties; they were not directed at the rights of citizens,” he said.
“We have made these amendments and they are not directed at any one person,” he added. “The changes ban political parties from being affiliated with convicts, so are not related to the rights of citizens.”
CNRP lawmakers who boycotted the plenary session later released a statement arguing the amendments were political tools being used by the CPP.
“This proposal is political in nature and oppresses the rights of persons and political parties,” the statement said. “The aim is to eliminate and remove opposition political rivals.”
CNRP vice president Eng Chhay Eang could not be reached for comment.
Mr Rainsy, whose past convictions have forced him into exile in France, posted on social media that the amendments were targeted specifically at him, adding that he worried this was the first step to then target his former colleagues.
“I am concerned that my like-minded CNRP former colleagues, and all other government critics and all Cambodian democrats, will be held hostage by the authoritarian CPP-led government,” Mr Rainsy said.
Ou Virak, president of Future Forum, said the amendments were not necessary.
“I think it was not necessary to amend the law on political parties because the amendments were created against a single person,” Mr Virak said. “It’s restrictive, but looking ahead, I don’t think it will seriously affect the CNRP.”