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Original Opposition Party Name Available

The opposition Sam Rainsy Party has no plans to change its name back to the original Khmer Nation Party, an official said Wednesday, following the legal release of the original in January.

The name of the Khmer Nation Party was tangled up in legal proceedings after the splintering from the opposition of Kong Muny, who claimed the name and spurred the renaming of the Sam Rainsy Party.

Last month, Kong Muny relinquished his rights to the name, which would allow the opposition to revert to its original at a time where both the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties are joined in a loose coalition against the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

“There is not any decision, besides welcoming and accepting,” Kong Muny said Wednesday.

Kong Muny is a former founder of the Khmer Nation Party, the precursor to the Sam Rainsy Party, but he now oversees the Khmer Angkor Party, which is aligned with the CPP.

He said he was giving up rights to the KNP name “for the national interest.”

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has come under pressure to change the name of his party before the opposition contests national parliamentary elections in 2013, according to a senior party member who asked not to be named. The Sam Rainsy Party currently holds 26 seats in the National Assembly, followed by the Human Rights Party, which has three. The CPP has 90.

The official said the name of the Khmer Nation Party could be used, but reclaiming the name could also cause rifts or weakening in the opposition. A similar split happened to Funcinpec, the official said, when Prince Norodom Ranariddh split from the party and formed his own eponymous party.

Chea Vannath, an independent political analyst, said the return of the party name could be an incentive for Sam Rainsy, but she warned that a party is not elected on its name alone but on its policies. She also questioned the usefulness of merging parties.

Meanwhile, Sam Rainsy remains in self-imposed exile, facing a two-year jail sentence for racial incitement and the destruction of property if he returns to Cambodia.