Court orders sale of CNRP HQ

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A girl walks her bicycle north along National Road 2 in front of the former headquarters of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), in Chak Angre Leu commune’s Prek Takong village of the capital’s Meanchey district on Tuesday. Hong Menea

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has issued a ruling ordering the sale of a building owned by former opposition leader Sam Rainsy that was previously used as the headquarters of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

The proceeds of the sale will be paid as compensation to Prime Minister Hun Sen, National Assembly president Heng Samrin, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng and the government itself – all of whom were awarded judgments resulting from lawsuits filed against the former CNRP leader.

The announcement of the sale was made just ahead of the fourth anniversary of the CNRP dissolution, which took place on November 16, 2017.

Municipal Court judge Im Vannak issued four separate orders on November 4 stating that the proceeds from the forced sale of the building would be paid out to Hun Sen in the amount of $1 million.

Beyond that, a total of $600,000 will go to Samrin, $500,000 to Sar Kheng and the remaining $440,000 to the government.

The order said the building – located on National Road 2 in Prek Ta Kong village of Meanchey district’s Chak Angre Leu commune – was forfeited to the municipal Department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and Cadastral Affairs on August 15, 2007. Its paperwork lists Rainsy and his wife Chulong Somura as the owners whose personal debts are the legal basis for the forfeiture of the property.

Choung Chou Ngy – who served as the defence lawyer for CNRP leaders in the past – declined to comment. He said he was still banned from participating in politics, which rendered him unable to give any further statements about the situation.

Rainsy could not be reached for comment on November 16.

According to the court orders, the lawsuits that resulted in these monetary judgements against Rainsy stemmed from his alleged defamatory remarks made on various topics related to the public figures – including his “highly inflammatory” and controversial accusation that Hun Sen orchestrated the death of former National Police chief Hok Lundy, who died when his helicopter crashed in bad weather in 2008.

Political analyst Seng Sary said the court orders show that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is turning the page on the CNRP and closing that chapter in Cambodia’s history because the former leading opposition party will never be reinstated as a formally recognised organisation.

“This also shows who controls the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. What is important now for the former CNRP supporters is determining how they can maintain their influential position within the ranks of the political opposition,” he said.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said the court gave Rainsy ample time to address the matter before concluding the forced sale of the property.

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Motorists ride past the former CNRP headquarters on National Road 2 in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on Tuesday. Hong Menea

“Sam Rainsy often said it was his honour to be tried by the court. So, it seems that he wanted the court to enforce the verdict so that he could use this decision as ammunition against his opponents by claiming that he is the victim of political persecution,” he said.

In observing the anniversary of the party dissolution in 2017, former CNRP members issued a joint statement on November 16 calling on the international community to exert pressure on the Cambodian government so that it “restores freedom” and unconditionally drops all charges pending against former CNRP leader Kem Sokha and others who they say are “prisoners of conscience”.

They also demand the reinstatement of the CNRP as a political party, the “restoration of democracy” and respect for human rights, along with a new election that allows the full participation of the party.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the forced sale of the former CNRP headquarters was like digging out the weeds of sedition and treachery by their roots. He said Rainsy would currently be facing a prison term of 160 years should he return to Cambodia in addition to all of his property here being forfeited.

“[Their demands] are the last wishes of a dying party with no hope of survival. They’ve been dreaming about this since 2017 but none of their dreams ever comes true. Their dreams are now dead and what’s dead won’t ever come back to life,” Eysan said.