Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday said that opposition officials who were banned from politics ahead of last year’s election have one month to seek a royal pardon.
Some 118 former Cambodia National Rescue Party officials were banned from political activities for five years in a Supreme Court ruling in November 2017 and the party dissolved over allegations of conspiring with a foreign power to overthrow Hun Sen. The CNRP denies all of the allegations.
Speaking at the opening of a Japan-funded flood defense system this week, Hun Sen said that “the door will be closed” to the former CNRP officials to accept his offer to resume political life in exchange for an admission of guilt and an apology by the end of Khmer New Year.
The government issued a directive in February that allowed the CNRP officials to seek reinstatement of their rights. But so far only a small number of officials have taken up the offer.
Mu Sochua, CNRP vice president, questioned why there was an ultimatum at all if the ruling Cambodian People’s Party had amended the political parties law to allow CNRP officials to rejoin the fold.
“This is not the rule of law because he is not a legitimate prime minister,” she said.
The political parties law was amended in 2018 to allow the officials to receive legal pardons, but so far just three have taken up the offer.
Gen. Khieu Sopheak, an interior ministry spokesman, said the CPP expected at least 20 more officials to seek pardons.
“We know unofficially that there will be more than 20 others in this group,” he said. “This is what I know, they are being dealt with on a case by case basis under the directive of the ministry.”
The CNRP won a large minority in the 2013 general election amid widespread claims of electoral fraud by international observers. It also won about 40 percent of the vote in local elections in 2017, eroding the CPP’s traditional base in the provinces.
But later that year the courts charged the party leader, Kem Sokha, with treason. Two months later the party was dissolved and its seats handed out to other parties, with most going to the CPP. Sokha remains under house arrest awaiting trial.