The resolution of Cambodia’s political crisis rests on the liberation of Kem Sokha

Thanks to international pressure the government of Phnom Penh is trying to show signs of altering it repressive policies.

These signs, however, may be misleading, as in the case of the announcement by Prime Minister Hun Sen of the rehabilitation of certain former opposition leaders. In fact, following a recent and expedient amendment to the law on political parties, the 118 CNRP officials who had been banned from politics when their party was dissolved on 16 November 2017 can recover their political rights if they make a request to the government.

Hun Sen knows well, as we all do, that a rehabilitation of the 118 CNRP officials has no meaning in current conditions, that is to say while the CNRP remains banned and its president, Kem Sokha, is deprived of his liberty and kept under house arrest. If they intend to be true to themselves, how could the 118 former colleagues of Kem Sokha resume their political activities without a party and a president?

It’s clear that a real solution to the current crisis involves in the first instance the liberation of Kem Sokha, who is falsely accused of treason. It was on the basis of this unsubstantiated accusation that the CNRP was dissolved and 118 of its officials banned from politics.

To show their sincerity in the search for a solution to the current crisis, the Cambodian authorities must act logically by first releasing Kem Sokha and dropping all the charges levied against him, which have served as a pretext for Hun Sen to dissolve the CNRP and ban the 118 opposition officials.

Cambodian law does not allow the authorities to detain a suspect without trial for longer than 18 months. Kem Sokha’s date of arrest was 3 September 2017, and as the authorities are unable to show credible evidence in order to organize a decent trial, he must be released at the latest on 3 March 2019.

I call on all friends of Cambodia to continue to press for the full liberation of Mr. Kem Sokha and for the withdrawal of all the accusations made against him, which will ipso facto lead to the rehabilitation of the 118 opposition officials, the reinstatement of the CNRP and the return of political pluralism to Cambodia.

Sam Rainsy
CNRP Acting President

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