Phnom Penh (FN), March 21 – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen requested former opposition leader in exile Sam Rainsy to stop insult and defame former opposition associates who requested to re-enter politics, speaking Thursday at the graduation ceremony held at National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh.

“I would like to request politicians to stop defaming those who decided to re-enter politics, and stop accusing the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of buying people out,” the Premier spoke before over 1,500 graduates of Asia-Europe University.

Sam Rainsy spoke ill of Ou Chanroth, former lawmaker of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, and other leaders and members who requested to the Ministry of Interior for rehabilitations to re-enter politics.

At a time when CNRP President Kem Sokha has not been released, the handful (less than five percent of a total of 118) of CNRP officials who ask Hun Sen to "rehabilitate" considered defected to Hun Sen, according to Sam Rainsy Facebook 17 March.

“In a near future, under international pressure, Hun Sen will be forced to release Kem Sokha and to reinstate the CNRP. Therefore, all dignified CNRP officials should refrain from selling out to Hun Sen,” Rainsy added.

Sam Rainsy accused the CPP of buying his former associates with USD 100,000-200,000 to re-enter politics, and those who could lure the next one to do so would receive USD 20,000-30,000 as bonuses.

Prime Minister taunted Sam Rainsy for considering his former associates “goods” for trade.

“Never look down on your [Rainsy’s] former associates. They are not goods for trade. They [banned opposition members] requested for rehabilitations for their personal freedom,” Prime Minister stated, adding “Hun Sen no need to buy anyone out; they are human, not animals nor objects.”
He continued that he respected the decision of everyone, particularly the freedom of people regardless of political background.

The Strongman also urged foreigners to consider thoroughly on those who they considered “democrat”.

“You [Rainsy] considered your former associates “goods” for trade. As a democrat who embraces freedom and democracy, you should not speak that kind of language.”

It is worth noting that 118 of former CNRP officials were banned from engaging in political activities for five years when the Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP on 16 November 2017 for “attempting to overthrow the government through a colour revolution”.

As of 19 March 2019, nine of the banned politicians were rehabilitated, including former top advisor Kong Korm and lawmaker Kong Bora, rehabilitated on 15 January 2019; opposition member Sim Sovanny, known as Sim Vanny, rehabilitated on 2 March 2019; former Svay Rieng representative Real Khemarin on 18 March; former CNRP lawmakers Ou Chanrath, Kang Kimhak, Chiv Kakta, Tep Sothy, and former party board member Chan Seila were rehabilitated on 19 March.

The amended Article 45 of law on political party stipulated that “Individual whom the court banned from doing political activities could not create a new party, or participate in any other political parties, or be a candidate for others to vote, or do any activities to support or oppose other parties.

The law added that "the banned individual will receive absolute rights to legally participate in political activities when banning expired as determined by the Supreme Court’s verdict, or in the case that individual has been rehabilitated by His Majesty King."

The rehabilitation is widely seen as the government’s move to strengthen democracy and political space.