CPP Aims ‘to Kill’ Rainsy’s Career With Law Changes

The ruling party submitted its newest proposed revisions to the Law on Political Parties to the National Assembly on Monday in what a CPP spokesman described on radio as an attempt to “kill Sam Rainsy’s political career.”

“No need for a spokesman to say it,” Sok Eysan told reporters later on Monday. “After more than 20 years in politics, what has Sam Rainsy done for the nation?”

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Prime Minister Hun Sen joins June 4th commune election campaign rally in Phnom Penh. (Hannah Hawkins/The Cambodia Daily)

The rhetoric was swiftly rebuffed by Mr. Rainsy who retorted on Monday in an email: “My continuous political activities and the CPP’s continuous attempts to silence me just prove the contrary.”

Mr. Rainsy resigned as CNRP president in February as the Assembly considered a controversial earlier set of revisions to the same law to bar convicts from political leadership and dissolve parties led by anyone with a criminal record. Those amendments were later passed.

Further amendments to the party law were proposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen last week in frustration over Mr. Rainsy’s continued criticism of Mr. Hun Sen and his government, as well as Mr. Rainsy’s ongoing involvement in the CNRP.

Mr. Rainsy has been sentenced to prison in a series of court cases over his and his colleagues’ criticisms of the government, and has lived in exile in Paris and not set foot in Cambodia since November 2015.

More than 30 ruling party lawmakers met on Monday to sign the proposed changes, which the Assembly’s permanent committee then forwarded to the legislative and justice commission, Mr. Eysan said on Monday.

He declined to provide any details on the proposed revisions.

But during an interview with Radio France International (RFI) broadcast on Monday morning, Mr. Eysan made the purpose of the legislative changes clear.

The proposal, he said, had no purpose “except to kill Sam Rainsy’s political career in society.”

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Former CNRP President Sam Rainsy speaks at a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Phnom Penh in 2015. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Eysan later declined to repeat his comments, instead making reference to the prime minister’s speech at the CPP’s anniversary celebration on Wednesday.

Mr. Rainsy “is a troublemaker and I understand that he has the gene from his father, Sam Sary, who was a traitor,” Mr. Eysan said, echoing comments made by the prime minister last week about Mr. Sary, who disappeared in 1962 after his alleged involvement in a planned coup against then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk.

CPP lawmaker Pen Panha, who heads the legislative and justice commission, could not be reached for comment.

CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrith, who serves as deputy head of the commission, said he had yet to see the CPP’s proposed reforms and did not want to comment until he had done so.

“We need to discuss it together first,” he said.

Other CNRP lawmakers could not be reached.

National Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long said on Monday that if the opposition had a problem with the proposed law, they could repeal it once they came to power.

“When [former U.S. President Barack] Obama took control, he created Obamacare, but when [current U.S. President Donald] Trump won, he eliminated it,” Mr. Peng Long said, in spite of the fact that Mr. Trump and the Republicans’ efforts to repeal the health-care legislation appear to have stalled.

Mr. Rainsy said the proposed changes were misguided.

“I thought they were already stupid when they desperately tried to eliminate me from the political scene because, with modern technologies, nobody can prevent anybody from sharing information and ideas with significant political impact,” he wrote in the email.

“But they now show that they are even more politically stupid than I first thought of them when they confess that their new amendments to the Law on Political Parties were designed to ‘kill Sam Rainsy’s political activities.’”

Ou Virak, head of the Future Forum think tank, said a law punishing a party for its former member’s activities would prove difficult on both moral and logistical grounds.

Free speech is “one of the basic human rights that needs to be protected,” he said. “How they legislate something like that is very, very difficult.”

The efforts only give Mr. Rainsy, whom the CNRP could not control, more relevance, Mr. Virak said.

“Why would they respond to him in such a way?” he asked. “That’s not good for the CPP and for the government.”

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