Cambodia's ruling Cambodian People’s Party is pushing ahead with its attempt to rein in other political parties ahead of elections this year despite concerns from the European Union’s ambassador to Phnom Penh.
“The EU believes that it is in the interests of Cambodia, and in the interests of long-term stability in the country, for there to be elections that command the confidence of the voters, and allow the people of Cambodia to choose whom they wish to represent them at commune and national level,” EU Ambassador to Cambodia George Edgar said Tuesday in response to questions from RFA's Khmer Service.
“In that context, we look to the authorities to ensure a political environment in which opposition parties and civil society can all function freely,” Edgar added.
Edgar’s statement comes as the Cambodian National Assembly is poised to revamp the nation’s law on political parties just before commune elections later this year and national elections in 2018.
According to local media reports, changes to the law would ban anyone convicted of a crime from standing as a candidate in elections, prohibit demonstrations after elections, and allow for the dissolution of political parties that “act illegally,” in an effort to prevent insurrections.
The change was spurred by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is head of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and has governed Cambodia for more than three decades.
Hun Sen has said he is seeking to ban politicians who have committed crimes from serving as party leaders or deputy leaders.
The threat of the changes has already led Hun Sen’s chief rival to resign as head of the main opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).
Sam Rainsy announced his resignation as CNRP president on Saturday, saying he didn’t want to see the opposition destabilized.
Cambodian courts are notorious for their lack of independence and have been criticized by activists in Cambodia and international observers as doing Hun Sen’s bidding in handing out questionable rulings on his opponents.
Opposition politicians often find themselves before the courts on various charges, and Sam Rainsy is no exception as he has been on the losing end of several court cases brought by Hun Sen or other CPP members.
Sam Rainsy has been living in France since 2015 to avoid arrest in a defamation case brought by former Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in 2008. In October, Hun Sen ordered police, immigration, and aviation authorities to "use all ways and means" to prevent the opposition leader from returning to the country.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday Sam Rainsy that he doesn’t have any plans to nominate his wife or his children to replace him in the CNRP.
In the post, Sam Rainsy said a Phnom Penh Post story citing a letter to acting CNRP chief Kem Sokha suggesting that his wife Tioulong Saumura become the party’s leader was fake.
In contrast to Sam Rainsy’s rejection of nepotism accusations, Hun Sen has installed family members in important positions.
His second son, Hun Manith, was appointed as deputy head of the CPP’s internal monitoring committee, the Phnom Penh Post reported, quoting a statement signed by the prime minister last week.
Hun Manith is a general in the Cambodian armed forces and heads the Defense Ministry’s intelligence department. The monitoring committee is a powerful body within the CPP as it has the power to discipline members who are determined to have done wrong, and to fire them.
Reported by San Sel for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sarada Taing. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.