PHNOM PENH - Cambodia’s National Election Committee on Friday reaffirmed its position that exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy will not be allowed to register among the candidates for the July elections.
The announcement was a setback to the opposition, which has hoped for a political solution and that Sam Rainsy would be allowed to return to lead a coalition against the ruling party.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha told reporters Friday that the new opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party would be allowed to contest the parliamentary elections, “but not Sam Rainsy.”
“The 2012 voter’s list does not have his name,” Tep Nitha said. “Therefore, he is not eligible to vote or run for election.”
Convicted of serious crimes related to destroying border markers near Vietnam in 2009, Sam Rainsy is ineligible to vote or to run for office, he said.
Sam Rainsy faces 12 year in prison on the charges if he returns to Cambodia. He has said in the past the charges are politically motivated and that a political solution can therefore be brokered. But Prime Minister Hun Sen has said in public speeches that Sam Rainsy’s case in a matter for the courts and that no political solution will come.
Sam Rainsy’s name has been deleted from the national voter registry, and he cannot run for a seat in parliament, Tep Nitha said Friday.
“Political compromise is different from technicality of voter registration because we are under a different law,” he said. “Political compromise is only for political issues.”
Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said Friday that there is no indication Sam Rainsy will be allowed to participate in the election. But he compared Sam Rainsy’s dilema to that of world leaders like Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, who were jailed for their opposition to the ruling status quo in their home countries.
“If the Cambodian government has the will, it can amend the election law to allow convicted persons and allow Sam Rainsy to participate in the election,” he said.
Some 9.6 million voters are registered for the election, which is estimated to cost about $21 million. But critics say that without a legitimate opposition to contest the elections, the international community may not view them as free or fair.