PHNOM PENH - Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has been removed from the voter registration list, officials said Monday, making him ineligible to vote in the 2013 parliamentary elections.
The move was another step away from a political solution for the return of Sam Rainsy, who is in exile and facing 12 years in prison on charges he says are politically motivated. Sam Rainsy is currently the head of the new opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Tep Nitha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee, the government’s election body, said his office will review Sam Rainsy’s case in a meeting on Tuesday. The move comes amid increased criticism of Cambodia’s election policies and procedures from European officials and UN rights officials.
Election monitors say Sam Rainsy should be allowed to return to the country to lead an opposition if Cambodia’s election is to be considered free and fair.
The NEC decision to strike Sam Rainsy from the voter list will be viewed as “oppression of a potential competitor,” said Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc and a board member of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections. “In order to be fair and acceptable for all parties, competition must be open,” he said.
Son Chhay, a lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said Sam Rainsy was not only illegible for voting, but he was not legible to be prime minister, should the opposition win the election.