Former CNRP members call for national reconciliation

Phnom Penh: Five former CNRP politicians who recently had their ban on politics lifted yesterday defended their choice in seeking clemency, noting that it was necessary for national reconciliation.

Ou Chanrath, Kang Kimhak, Tep Sothy, Chiv Kakak, and Sim Sovany held a press conference yesterday and told reporters they will not create or join a new political party.

“We wanted to ease the current political tension and build confidence among Khmer politicians in order to solve every issue,” they said in a statement, adding the treason charge against former CNRP leader Kem Sokha should be dropped. “We want national reconciliation and unity through the culture of dialogue. We believe this action will be a good example for the next generation.”b

So far, nine out of 118 CNRP politicians banned from politics by the Supreme Court in 2017 have had their ban lifted after filing a request to the Interior Ministry.

Many have since criticised the nine for seeking clemency, including former CNRP vice president Eng Chhai Eang. In an interview with Radio Free Asia last week, Mr Chhai Eang said the nine politicians “betrayed” the party and the will of the Cambodian people.

When asked about the criticism by Mr Chhai Eang, Mr Chanrath, Mr Kimhak and Ms Sothy said they had the right to file a request.

“I deeply regret this accusation,” Mr Chanrath said. “Some had been an opposition party member for 20 to 30 years – they spent time and money and made sacrifices for the party.”

Mr Kimhak said the politicians have the right to live without government scrutiny, adding that he doesn’t know if anyone else is planning to file for a request.

“I don’t have a clue whether another banned politician would make the request,” he said. “But if they think that’s what’s best for them then it’s their personal right.”

Ms Sothy said she was concerned about the possible suspension of the Everything-but-arms trade scheme with European Union and access to the Generalised System of Preferences with the United States.

She said that she needed to file for a request in order to solve the current political situation.

“As a former elected representative, I cannot sit idly by while millions of my compatriots suffer,” Ms Sothy said. “I must do everything I can to alleviate the suffering.”

“I hope to use my newly restored political rights to play a constructive role to resolve the political stalemate that has dragged on for far too long,” she added.

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday said he is still open to accepting requests for clemency, and noted that those who are still involved with former opposition leader Sam Rainsy will be prosecuted.

“I wish to say that for those of you who have not received political rehabilitation that if you conduct political activities, then what you are doing is illegal,” Mr Hun Sen said. “I must take action against you if you are with an illegal movement and illegal party. You will face a serious sentence if you go against the Supreme Court’s verdict.”

Last week, Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued multiple arrest warrants against eight former opposition leaders, including Mr Rainsy, Mu Sochua and Mr Chhai Eang for allegedly conspiring to commit treason and incitement.