‘Terrorist’ Group Takes Final Step to Party Status

The Khmer People Power Movement (KPPM) on Tuesday handed the Interior Ministry the last of the paperwork it needs to form a political party, just days after its self-exiled founder, Sourn Serey Ratha, was pardoned by King Norodom Sihamoni, at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s request, for convictions including plotting and incitement.

“The Interior Ministry received our application form and officially recognized the [Khmer Power Party] today to join the next election,” said Tep Virak, a spokesman for the KPPM, which has advocated for an uprising to topple Mr. Hun Sen, who has in turn branded the group a terrorist organization.

The Interior Ministry’s administration chief, Men Bunrith, confirmed receipt of the application Tuesday but said the ministry’s political affairs department had yet to register the party.

“The party does not yet have full rights to conduct their political activities because it is not registered,” he said.

The party’s registration follows Wednesday’s royal pardon for Mr. Serey Ratha, who was convicted in January of inciting a felony, plotting against the government and obstructing elections.

Observers have described the case against him as politically motivated and suspect the ruling CPP has cleared the way for Mr. Serey Ratha to join the coming elections in the hope that he will siphon off votes from the main opposition party, the CNRP. The CPP and KPPM have rejected the suggestion.

Mr. Virak said the new party’s first order of business would be to set up offices in each province and a $1-million headquarters in Phnom Penh by early next year.

Tuesday’s application included the requisite 4,000 signatures from supporters, as well as the party’s platform, which calls for a home and farm for every family, the cancellation of all economic land concessions with 99-year leases, and a review of all loans from foreign governments.

The party also wants to see the prime minister elected directly, limit the office to two terms, and shorten a term from five years to four. It also wants to clear the voter list of all Vietnamese people living in Cambodia illegally, and allow Cambodian nationals living abroad to vote in the country’s elections.

The next commune election is in 2017, and the next general election the year after that. But Mr. Serey Ratha says the party will only run if the National Election Committee is overhauled so that it is comprised only of politically independent members.

Mr. Serey Ratha is currently in Thailand and says he will not return to Cambodia until three men who were convicted with him in January—currently serving jail terms in Phnom Penh—are pardoned.

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