The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) said Tuesday it supported Prime Minister Hun Sen’s proposal for a new law that would make it illegal to deny the crimes of the Khmer Rouge.
The endorsement comes amid the controversy surrounding comments by CNRP acting president Kem Sokha who claimed that Vietnam had fabricated the torture and murders the Khmer Rouge carried out at its notorious Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh after Vietnamese forces toppled the Pol Pot regime in 1979.
Mr. Hun Sen proposed the new law on Monday, days after the CPP released snippets of audio from Mr. Sokha’s speech accusing Vietnam of inventing Tuol Sleng’s horrors.
While Mr. Sokha has declined to clarify his comments, the CNRP has released a statement accusing the government of twisting Mr. Sokha’s words, and said the party’s acting president had never actually denied that the Khmer Rouge was responsible for the horrific crimes at Tuol Sleng.
The opposition’s endorsement of Mr. Hun Sen’s proposed law to criminalize denial of Khmer Rouge crimes, which was released late Tuesday, appears aimed at bolstering the CNRP’s political credentials, which have been bruised by Mr. Sokha’s comment on Vietnam and Tuol Sleng.
In addition to its pledge to “support the creation of a law to punish whoever says there is no genocide in Cambodia,” the CNRP statement also declares respect for the Constitution and its pledge to protect Cambodia’s independence and sovereignty, the rule of law, its market economy, and social morality with national reconciliation.
The CNRP, in their statement, also “condemns any person or group that attempts to incite and divide Cambodians and that exaggerates [information] about the CNRP for political gain.”
The CNRP has accused the government of seeking political gain in its use, and alleged misuse, of Mr. Sokha’s comments about Tuol Sleng.
The government has not offered any details about the proposed law, but Mr. Hun Sen said he wanted the National Assembly to approve it ahead of July’s national election.