Gov’t Blocks Prince’s Party Ambitions

Interior Minister Sar Kheng has told Prince Sisowath Thomico that due to a technicality, the request for his Sangkum Cheat Niyum, or “National Community,” to open party offices throughout the country has been denied.

“The Ministry of Interior has examined [and found] that Sangkum Cheat Niyum is not clear whether it is a national alliance of an association, a non-governmental organization, an alliance of political parties or a political party,” Sar Kheng wrote in a statement dated Aug 24.

“Therefore, the Ministry of Interior would not give permission to the national alliance, which is named Sangkum Cheat Niyum, to establish offices at the national level and provinces unless or until the alliance has the proper structure that complies with the law.”

On Monday, Tuol Kok district Deputy Governor Khuong Sreng asked Suth Dina, spokesman for the Sangkum Cheat Niyum and president of the Khmer Front Party, to not use the KFP office in the district for Prince Thomico’s political project.

Suth Dina signed an agreement with Khuong Sreng promising not to establish the Sangkum Cheat Niyum party office or publicly display the party logo in the district office.

Khuong Sreng said that the order came straight from the Interior Ministry.

Suth Dina said the Sangkum Cheat Niyum has made requests to establish offices at the national and provincial level since July.

He added that the restrictions are causing complications for both Sangkum Cheat Niyum and his KFP.

“Authorities cause us trouble with technical issues, but it’s related to politics,” he said.

Suth Dina claimed that the application he filed to establish the Sangkum Cheat Niyum with the Interior Ministry complied with the law.

He also said that the Interior Ministry’s demand to clearly define the Sangkum Cheat Niyum as either an alliance of political parties or a single party was disingenuous.

“It’s a pretext by the government, they don’t want things to go smoothly for our party,” he said.

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, stood by Sar Kheng’s statement, saying it was up to the alliance to clarify what it was.

“It’s not clear if it’s a political party,” Khieu Sopheak said.

“If it’s a political party it’s OK. We are happy to register every political party as long as they conform with the law,” he added.

Interviewed at the Royal Palace, Prince Thomico said he was not overly concerned by the Interior Ministry’s decision and admitted that he had not precisely defined what the Sangkum Cheat Niyum was.

“They just wanted us to be precise before giving us permission. I think there is nothing political in this,” Prince Thomico said.

“I recognize that on the day I wrote the request I was not clear. Later on we will be precise and make sure that everything was clear according to the law,” he said.

Prince Thomico added that he was more concerned by the government’s failure to give a timely reply to his request to hold the Sangkum Cheat Niyum’s first political convention planned for Sept 8 in Phnom Penh.

The government’s failure to respond to the request is causing organizational problems, he said.

“There is a double standard,” he added. “On the one hand Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomes the new party and on the other hand the administration makes everything possible to impede and to restrain us from normal activities.”

Hang Puthea, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free Elections in Cambodia, said the Interior Ministry issued the statement to prevent the Sangkum Cheat Niyum from making a name for itself.

“The CPP wants to reduce the new party’s popularity,” he said.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said his party doesn’t consider Sangkum Cheat Niyum a threat.

“The CPP doesn’t cause trouble to the new party,” he said.

“We are not afraid of any new parties.”


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