Cambodia’s opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on Friday filed an appeal to reverse a ruling by the nation’s highest court to dissolve it, saying the decision was “politically motivated” and amounted to a national tragedy.
Cambodia’s Supreme Court on Nov. 16 unanimously ruled that the CNRP be dissolved for its part in plotting a “coup” against the government, banning 118 party officials from politics for five years and essentially eliminating any competition to Prime Minister Hun Sen ahead of a general election scheduled for July 2018.
Since the decision, the National Assembly has redistributed the CNRP’s 55 seats to other government-aligned political parties, while Hun Sen has pressured the party’s nearly 5,000 elected commune and 800 provincial/municipal level councilors to defect to his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) or lose their jobs.
CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath on Friday filed an appeal against the Supreme Court ruling to dissolve the opposition party, telling RFA’s Khmer Service his intention is to “stop the ruling party from arbitrarily distributing” the CNRP’s commune and provincial/municipal councilor positions to other parties.
He also called for all 118 CNRP officials who were banned from politics to be allowed to resume their positions and return to politics.
“I have filed the appeal, but I haven’t been informed of how things will proceed,” he said.
“I believe now that the court has received the appeal, it will take some time to look into it. I expect to be notified about the case through our lawyer.”
Ou Chanrath said he believes that the Supreme Court lacks dependence from the ruling party, but felt the need to ask for a reconsideration of the decision because it would “cause a tragedy for the nation” if not reversed.
“We do not recognize the Supreme Court’s ruling to dissolve the opposition party,” he said.
“The dissolution of the CNRP is politically motivated.”
Local political analyst Lao Mong Hay said it is highly unlikely that the CNRP would win its appeal, particularly because the opposition party didn’t bother to take part in the proceedings during the original ruling.
“When the CNRP was summoned to the hearing, they didn’t show up, and the ruling was then rendered,” he said.
“The CNRP appears to be inconsistent, initially claiming they didn’t recognize the ruling, but now pursuing an appeal. I don’t think it’s a good move.”
But Ou Chanrath explained that he filed the appeal as a way of “expressing his resentment” of the ruling, and said he would “leave it to the court to decide and the public to judge.”
CPP spokesperson Sok Ey San dismissed the CNRP’s appeal as “useless.”
“He has the right to file an appeal, but it’s useless to appeal a final decision,” he said.
“A Supreme Court ruling cannot be overturned.”
Also on Friday, Choung Choungy, a lawyer for jailed CNRP lawmaker Um Sam An, expressed frustration over the “very slow process” of the Supreme Court in addressing an appeal of his client’s sentence.
“The legal documents were submitted a long time ago, but the Supreme Court keeps changing the dates of the hearing time and again,” he said.
“I have no idea as to when there will be an actual hearing.”
Um Sam An was handed a two-and-a half year sentence by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in October 2016 for “inciting discrimination” and “inciting social instability” for posts on the lawmaker’s Facebook page accusing the CPP of failing to stop land encroachment by Vietnam and using improper maps to demarcate the border between the two former colonies of France.
Months earlier, Hun Sen had ordered police to arrest anyone accusing the government of using “fake” maps to cede national territory to Vietnam, which invaded and occupied Cambodia in 1979 to overthrow the rule of the Khmer Rouge.
Am Sam Ath, head of investigations for local rights group LICADHO, told RFA that “justice delayed is justice denied” in Um Sam An’s case.
“The longer the delay in the proceedings, the more infringement on the rights of the accused occurs,” he said.
“The accused hopes that a decision is made expeditiously so that he can be freed sooner. The delay in proceedings while the accused remains in custody longer hurts his family the most, both financially and emotionally.”
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.