Nhek Bun Chhay, the former president of the Khmer National United Party (KNUP) and a former senior leader in the royalist Funcinpec party, has said he will return to politics after he was released from prison.
Bun Chhay was arrested in August last year over a 2007 drugs case and another drugs bust in 2012 and charged with drug trafficking offenses.
The charges came after a phone conversation between Bun Chhay and then-opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang was leaked online, which appeared to show Bun Chhay discussing a deal between the Cambodia National Rescue Party and the KNUP.
Bun Chhay was stripped of his role as a government adviser and arrested shortly afterward.
Seong Kiri, KNUP president, said on Tuesday that party members were planning to hold an election and vote for Bun Chhay back into the position.
He added that the party planned to register for the July general election shortly afterward.
“Our members are preparing to return his position to him but his health is not good, so he asked to postpone it until he recovers.”
Ey Rint, Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman, did not respond to questions about the reasons behind Bun Chhay’s release.
“You can look at the order as it was already stated that he will be investigated instead of being detained,” he said.
Bun Chhay resigned from the KNUP in order to prevent his party from being dissolved because of a new rule which prohibits convicted criminals from leading political parties.
Khieu Sopheak, Interior Ministry spokesman, said Bun Chhay can run as Bun Chhay had not been convicted, he was free to pursue political roles in the KNUP.
“Based on the law, when the court has not decided to charge him with anything, he is still a normal citizen. So not being detained means that he is not yet convicted and can be a politician.”