Sam Rainsy ‘will not have his rights restored’

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Prime Minister Hun Sen waves as he leaves the Senate in 2014 after concluding negotiations with former senior members of the court-dissolved CNRP. Heng Chivoan

A senior official at the Ministry of Interior on Monday said that opposition leader Sam Rainsy would not be eligible for a reinstatement of his political rights if a proposed change to the law is passed.

The Permanent Committee of the National Assembly, led by its president Heng Samrin, is to meet again on Tuesday to discuss the proposed amendment to Article 45 of the Law on Political Parties and set the date for a plenary session to debate it.

Samrin’s Permanent Committee will again discuss the amendment, which proposes to allow the restoration of political rights to those who have had them removed by the courts.

To be eligible, those banned must be seen to have respected the court’s ruling. The prime minister can then request King Norodom Sihamoni for a pardon.

Sam Rainsy is not the only senior official of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) whose names government officials have hinted would not end up on a list of politicians who qualify to have their bans lifted. The list is being compiled by Minister of Interior Sar Kheng.

Other senior government officials said last week that if the proposed amendment is passed, former opposition leader Kem Sokha would not be eligible for a reinstatement of his political rights as he is involved in an ongoing court case.

Monday’s meeting came after a National Assembly expert commission reviewed the proposed amendment after the parliamentary Permanent Committee convened on Wednesday and decided to forward the proposal to the expert committee for review.

Ruling Cambodian People Party lawmaker Chheang Vun said last week that the purpose of the proposed amendment is to fill “gaps” in the law and encourage banned politicians to revive their political careers after they had “corrected” themselves.

Vun told The Post on Monday that the National Assembly would hold a session on the amendment soon, but he said the date would be announced after the Permanent Committee held its Tuesday meeting.

However, he said that as the proposed amendment is considered “urgent”, it would be worked on “immediately”.

“This one is urgent. If it is an urgent one, based on the law, we need to immediately work on it,” he said.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak told The Post on Monday that some of the 118 senior officials of the CNRP who were banned from politics by the Supreme Court would not be able to resume their careers, as they were still involved in politics despite the court’s ruling.

“I think that among the 118 [CNRP] senior officials, not all of them would have their bans lifted. Some of them did not respect the court’s verdict.

“They violated the law and the court’s decision to [stay out of] politics. They still conduct many activities, including giving [political] speeches.”

Sopheak said one of those who had “violated” the court ruling is Cambodia National Rescue Movement president Rainsy, and that all activities by the banned politicians are being “recorded” by Cambodian authorities.

“All their activists since after November 16, 2017, we have monitored. We have the documents and evidence to prove that they joined demonstrations against [government] leaders both inside and outside the Kingdom. All that they have done, we have already recorded it,” he said.

Asked for a specific individual who would not be considered for a lifting of their ban, Sopheak gave Rainsy as an example.

“Sam Rainsy – he is on the banned list of the court. He has many criminal cases . . . [and] we have arrest warrants out for him. Even if we [could] lift his ban, he still has other criminal cases, [and] he has never served his prison sentence.”