Former lawmakers request clemency

Phnom Penh: Five more former opposition members have filed requests to Interior Minister Sar Kheng in order to return to politics.

Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak yesterday said they are former CNRP lawmakers Ou Chanrath, Kang Kimhak, Chiv Kakta, Tep Sothy and former party board committee member Chan Seila.

“I have reported their names to Interior Minister Sar Kheng and he agreed to forward the requests to Prime Minister Hun Sen for consideration,” Gen Sopheak said, noting that 20 other banned former opposition politicians have contacted him to file a request. “I think they will soon have their ban lifted. I am optimistic that more former CNRP officials will file requests in the coming days.”

According to the Law on Political Parties, former CNRP members who were banned from politics by the Supreme Court in 2017 can return if they file a request for clemency to either Mr Hun Sen or Mr Kheng. King Norodom Sihamoni will then give the final approval for a Royal Pardon.

The latest requests came after Real Camerin, former Svay Rieng provincial representative, was granted a pardon by Acting Head of State and Senate President Say Chhum yesterday because King Sihamoni is in China for a medical check-up.

Mr Chanrath yesterday said he and the other four former CNRP members filed for requests in order to return to politics.

“We want to resume our political careers and work without intimidation or fear,” he said. “I cannot give more details about our next move until we have received the Royal Pardon.”

Ms Sothy said she sought clemency in order to seek national unity amidst the possibility that Cambodia could lose its Everything-but-arms trade preference with the European Union.

“I am worried that millions of Cambodians will be affected when the EU withdraws Cambodia’s EBA status,” she said. “I requested to make a return to politics so that I may perform my role and address the people’s problems. We must have a political solution.”

The Kingdom’s EBA status is currently under review by European Commission due to perceived setbacks on democracy and human rights over the dissolution of the Cambodian National Rescue Party and the prosecution of its leaders in 2017.

In light of the review, an amendment was made to the Law on Political Parties in order to pave the way for a total of 118 banned CNRP officials to return to the political arena.

However, despite efforts by the government to discourage the EC from moving forward with the review of Kingdom’s EBA status, the EC last month announced that it has moved to the next stage of its review, which is intensive monitoring and engagement with the government.

So far, a total of four former CNRP officials have had their bans lifted after filing requests.