Interior Ministry Hints at End to CNRP’s Bylaw Woes

The CNRP’s tangle with the Interior Ministry over the party’s bylaws will be resolved as long as the opposition’s newly submitted internal rules and leadership changes follow government procedures, a ministry spokesman said on Monday.

“This will be the end of it if they respected the ministry’s instructions,” said Khieu Sopheak, a ministry spokesman.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak, left, gestures during a press conference at the ministry’s headquarters in Phnom Penh last year announce the preliminary results of a probe into the veracity of the thumbprints on a CNRP petition. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The showdown between the party and the Interior Ministry kicked off early last month, when the CNRP held a snap congress to pass new bylaws and elevate Kem Sokha to permanent president and appoint three lawmakers as his deputies. They were hoping to avoid the snares of a newly amended Law on Political Parties that allows the ministry to indefinitely suspend parties for vaguely worded infractions.

But Interior Minister Sar Kheng issued a letter on March 22 saying that the CNRP had failed to follow its old bylaws—the ones still on record at the ministry—which would have required the party to wait far longer before replacing lawsuit-plagued Sam Rainsy as president. He resigned in February to avoid new provisions of the law barring those convicted of crimes from being party president.

The CNRP submitted its amended bylaws to the ministry last week and re-elected Mu Sochua, Pol Ham, and Eng Chhay Eang as vice presidents on Sunday. Under the new bylaws, Mr. Sokha automatically assumed the party presidency as Mr. Rainsy’s oldest vice president.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the party had submitted a letter listing its re-elected leaders to the ministry, but declined further comment.

General Sopheak acknowledged receipt of the letter and said a special working group would review it before sending it on to Mr. Kheng for his signature.

“We already received that letter,” he said. “Whether we will validate them or not, I cannot tell you now.”

But the spokesman suggested that the government would likely acknowledge the new bylaws and leadership.

“In my opinion, it is not a big deal,” he said. “If they submit it, we will accept it.”

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