Ex-CNRP officials get rehabilitation

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Former CNRP Permanent Committee member Son Chhay spoke to reporters in 2016. Hong Menea

King Norodom Sihamoni granted rehabilitation requests to three former members of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Former lawmaker Son Chhay, Va Samo and Tav Kimchon submitted rehabilitation requests two weeks ago to Minister of Interior Sar Kheng. They were granted on Thursday.

Chhay was initially banned from politics for five years as per the Supreme Court ruling in November 2017.

Ministry spokesperson Phat Sophanit said on Sunday that since the Law on Political Parties was amended in January 2019, paving the way for former CNRP members to return to politics, 12 out of 118 banned CNRP officials had been granted rehabilitation.

As of Sunday, no other rehabilitation requests had been submitted, he said.

Two new political parties, the Khmer Conservative Party and the Cambodian Nation Love Party, have been formed by the 12 rehabilitated politicians.

Prominent former lawmaker Ou Chanrath is reportedly considering forming another party.

Chanrith, who is living abroad, said that Chhay and the other opposition members had the right to request rehabilitation but he doesn’t know their plans because he hasn’t communicated with them recently.

“To be honest, I regret that they requested the return of their political rights. Whether they would form a new party or join the existing Candle Light Party, I don’t know because we haven’t gotten in touch lately,” he said.

The director of the International Relation Institute at Royal Academy of Cambodia, Kin Phea, said on Sunday that as politicians, they did not want to wait five years to return to politics.

Phea said such rehabilitation requests could be regarded as ‘party betrayal’ by other former opposition members. But it is their only way to return to politics and collect the broken pieces of the CNRP and walk on a new political path.

“This points to a breakup among the former CNRP members whose party is already broken. They have been spiritually and strategically divided,” Phea said.

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