Sixty ruling party lawmakers submitted a petition to the National Assembly on Friday calling for an “urgent” legal amendment that would ban opposition leader Sam Rainsy from political party leadership — and push forward plans that could eliminate the CNRP before upcoming elections.
Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen went on the tirade against the opposition and its leader, announcing plans to alter the law governing political parties so that the CPP’s only realistic threat could be “dissolved” due to Mr. Rainsy’s criminal convictions in cases widely believed to be politically motivated.
Despite the ruling party initially stating it would wait until the National Assembly returns from its recess in April to consider the amendment, National Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long said on Friday that it could be passed before then.
“The plenary session could possibly be held soon as it’s just required to have one third, or about 40 members of all members of the National Assembly, to propose it as ‘urgent,’” he said. “We can process everything as fast as possible by not wasting any time.”
The petition, signed by 60 of the 68 CPP lawmakers in the Assembly, was labeled “urgent,” he said.
Mr. Hun Sen has justified the planned amendment by comparing it to Thailand’s military-backed Constitution, which has led to parties, including that of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, being dissolved after falling out of favor with the military and its supporters.
Mr. Rainsy entered his latest stint in exile in November 2015 to avoid jail for defaming Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong. His deputy, Kem Sokha, was pardoned late last year of his own conviction related to a “prostitution” case also widely seen as the ruling party pulling the strings of the judiciary.
Despite the amendment appearing to be edging nearer to being passed, senior opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said he believed Mr. Rainsy’s return could eventually be secured through negotiations — as happened in the lead-up to the 2013 general election.
“He can still lead and guide the party from [a distance] as the law has not been passed,” Mr. Chhay said, adding that the law was “not necessary.”
“I do have strong faith that this law cannot end His Excellency Sam Rainsy from leading the political party from abroad, and the next day there can be negotiations together for his return,” he added.
Mr. Rainsy, who has been barred from returning to Cambodia, could not immediately be reached for comment.