Sar Kheng: CNRP who re­spect court likely for a re­turn

The Phnom Penh Post - - FRONT PAGE - Mech Dara

MIN­IS­TER of In­te­rior Sar Kheng said the ma­jor­ity of the for­mer Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party (CNRP) of­fi­cials who were banned by the Supreme Court from en­gag­ing in po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties for five years might be able to re­sume their po­lit­i­cal ca­reers, pro­vided they have ad­hered to the rul­ing.

The deputy prime min­is­ter said this when speak­ing at a work­shop in­tro­duc­ing the du­ties and obli­ga­tions of the Na­tional Com­mit­tee Against Tor­ture and Cruel, In­hu­man or De­grad­ing Treat­ment and the Im­ple­men­ta­tion of In­ter­na­tional Hu­man Rights Law on Tues­day.

He also wel­comed the re­open­ing of the Cam­bo­dian of­fices of ra­dio sta­tions Voice of Amer­ica and Ra­dio Free Asia.

Sar Kheng’s words came af­ter 87 law­mak­ers pro­posed an amend­ment to Ar­ti­cle 45 of the Law on Po­lit­i­cal par­ties, which would al­low the prime min­is­ter to re­quest King Norodom Si­ha­moni to re­turn full po­lit­i­cal rights to those who have had them re­moved by the courts.

He pointed out that the ma­jor­ity of the for­mer se­nior CNRP of­fi­cials who fell un­der the court ban had re­spected its de­ci­sion, while only a small num­ber had not. The law­mak­ers had pro­posed the amend­ment so that those who ad­hered to the law could have their rights re­turned, he said.

“Among the 118 [CNRP] politi­cians [barred from pol­i­tics], only a few do not re­spect the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion while most of them have. In fact, the ma­jor­ity have re­spected the court’s de­ci­sion and we need to ac­cept this truth.

“The amend­ment pro­posal aims to with­draw the ban [for these],” he said.

He said while the gov­ern­ment was con­tin­u­ing to strengthen democ­racy for so­cial and eco­nomic devel­op­ment, im­prov­ing peo­ple’s liv ing stan­dards and devel­op­ment of the King­dom, it was also putting in ef­fort to solve any per­ceived prob­lems.

Re­gard­ing pos­si­ble prob­lems fac­ing NGOs, Sar Kheng said the Min­istry of In­te­rior has worked to im­prove re­la­tions with civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions.

He said the Min­istry of In­te­rior stud­ies their opin­ions, rec­om­men­da­tions and crit­i­cisms, while it has also brought the re­quest for an amend­ment to the Law on As­so­ci­a­tions and NGOs up for dis­cus­sion.

He said he had ac­cepted the re­quest for con­sid­er­a­tion. “I have re­ceived it. Not all of our com­ments are cor­rect, but not all of them

are in­cor­rect; not all of the NGO’s opin­ions are right and not all of them are wrong.We ac­cept the proper ones and we will not take the wrong ones,” he said.

How­ever, Sar Kheng warned that de­spite cre­at­ing mech­a­nisms to ad­dress and find so­lu­tions to the dif­fi­cul­ties fac­ing civil so­ci­ety, if NGOs did not re­spect the law, the gov­ern­ment would en­force it.

Re­gard­ing RFA, VOA and shut­tered news­pa­per the Cam­bo­dia Daily, Sar Kheng said RFA and VOA have the right to re­open their of­fices as the gov­ern­ment had not forced them to close, rather both ra­dio sta­tions had shut down vol­un­tar­ily.

He said he wel­comed RFA and VOA re­open­ing their of­fices, but the Cam­bo­dia Daily would have to pay its tax bill first as its clo­sure came be­cause it did not pay it.

“For VOA and RFA, no one has shut t hem dow n, t hey shut t hem­selves down. They just said they got this and t hat pres­sure, but in fact, t here was no pres­sure. It is not right to ta lk like t hat. Un­less t here is a writ­ten doc­u­ment or act ion ser v ing as ev idence threat­en­ing you to close, you can­not say t hat.

“No one banned them but they just felt scared by them­selves and they closed their of­fices by them­selves, but they said they were threat­ened. Now we wel­come both ra­dio [sta­tions] to open their of­fices in Ph­nom Penh again,” he said.

RFA de­cided to close its of­fices on Septem­ber 10, last year, while the Cam­bo­dia Daily ceased pub­lish­ing on Septem­ber 4 the same year, af­ter re­ceiv­ing a $6 mil­lion tax bill it did not pay.

An­a­lyst Meas Nee said he be­lieved the amend­ment pro­posal to al­low those banned to have their po­lit­i­cal rights re­turned, and Sar Kheng wel­com­ing the re­open­ing of RFA and VOA came un­der pres­sure from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

“This is the re­sult of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Cam­bo­dian se­nior of­fi­cials and the EU, and it is a re­sult of the gov­ern­ment [tack­ling] other po­lit­i­cal prob­lems,” he said.



In­te­rior Min­is­ter Sar Kheng speaks at a work­shop in Ph­nom Penh on Tues­day. He said he wel­comes RFA and VOA re­open­ing their of­fices.

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