The Interior Ministry officially registered the Khmer Power Party on Friday, after years of insisting—despite a lack of evidence—that its parent group, the Khmer People Power Movement, was a terrorist organization.
The move comes a week and a day after King Norodom Sihamoni, at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s request, pardoned the party’s president, Sourn Serey Ratha, who was convicted on terrorism-related charges in January and remains in self-imposed exile.
“The Khmer Power Party (KPP) was registered on the political list of the Interior Ministry,” the ministry said in a statement on Friday.
An Interior Ministry official has said that the movement was being granted a political party because it no longer posed a security threat.
But observers say the case against Mr. Serey Ratha was politically motivated to begin with, and suspect that the ruling CPP now hopes his party’s populist platform will siphon votes away from the CNRP in the commune and national elections in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
The CPP and Mr. Serey Ratha both reject the idea.