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Two More CNRP Officials Request Return to Politics

FILE PHOTO- Former Vice President of opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party Pol Ham, center left, prays together with his former party lawmaker Son Chhay, center right, during a Buddhist ceremony, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Two former CNRP officials banned from political activity have requested amnesty from the government, hoping to join with at least 22 former opposition members re-entering the political fray ahead of the June 2022 commune election.

Former Cambodia National Rescue Party Vice President Pol Ham and party official Phan Chansak, who is also Kem Sokha’s lawyer in the treason trial, requested a return to politics, according to a request letter dated May 17.

The Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in 2017 for allegedly attempting a “color revolution” and banned 118 of its senior officials for five years. However, the government created an ad-hoc mechanism for the banned politicians to request amnesty, and, so far, 22 officials have returned to politics.

Ministry of Interior Spokesperson Khieu Sopheak said on Tuesday that the ministry had received a formal request from Pol Ham and Phan Chansak, and the letter had been forwarded to Interior Minister Sar Kheng for further processing.

Phan Chansak said he had submitted the request on Monday and was looking forward to returning to politics.

“I submitted [the request] to continue my political career in the democratic sphere. My political rights have been held up for more than three years. This has been a big waste of time,” he said.

He plans to join the Cambodia Reform Party, which was founded recently by another rehabilitated CNRP official, Ou Chanrath.

Phan Chansak also hoped that other CNRP members would join the Cambodia Reform Party to compete in the commune election next year.

VOA Khmer could not reach Pol Ham for comment on Tuesday.

There are currently four CNRP-affiliated parties that could compete in the 2022 election: the Khmer Will Party, Khmer Conservatism Party, Cambodia Nation Love Party, and Cambodia Reform Party.

Ou Chanrath of the Cambodia Reform Party welcomed Phan Chansak’s desire to join the party and said his political aim was to ensure there was a “balance of power” in the country.

“If we're still dispersed, we can't do anything. I believe that is the way the ruling party will remain in power for more years to come,” he said.

During the formation of the Cambodia Reform Party, there was speculation that Pol Ham would join the party, but Ou Chanrath on Tuesday did not want to comment on the former CNRP official's plans after receiving amnesty.

Meas Nee, a social and political analyst, said individuals who were banned had the right to seek political rehabilitation. But, he was skeptical of the prospects of new, and small, CNRP-affiliated parties.

“It is important to note that the establishment of small parties is to disperse the politicians or to be ready for any democratic movement in the future. This is an important direction which we don't see for now,” he said.