Cambodia: Parliament Approves Rules Allowing For Dissolution Of Opposition Parties

That would exclude veteran opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who has been convicted of a series of defamation charges and has lived in exile in France since 2015 to avoid them.

A quarter of Cambodia's political parties will be unable to participate in upcoming elections on June 4 once a controversial bill on political parties becomes law, state media reported yesterday.

"The passage of these amendments marks the final consolidation of absolute power in the hands of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People's Party", said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch.

The Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), the largest opposition party, is expected to be hardest hit by the bill as many of its members have been sued by the government, including former party head Sam Rainsy.

The CNRP's 55 lawmakers boycotted the National Assembly vote on Monday, saying it had targeted them.

"The passage of these amendments marks the final consolidation of absolute power in the hands of PM Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People's Party", said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of USA -based Human Rights Watch.

The CNRP said in a statement on Sunday that it did not support the amendments, saying that the legal changes could be used for the suppression and destruction of rival parties.

It called on the government to ensure that the polls this year and next "are free, open, and transparent, that all political parties have the opportunity to compete on an equal basis".

The US Embassy has said it is deeply concerned about the legal amendments.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Parliamentarians for Human Rights group called it the "death knell for democracy" in Cambodia.

The amended law bars anyone with a conviction and non-suspended prison sentence from holding a party leadership post and lets the Supreme Court block the leadership of a dissolved party from engaging in any political activity for up to five years.

Meanwhile, National Assembly spokesperson Leng Peng Long argued in favour of the changes, claiming they will help create an appropriate political climate. Mr. Sokha, who merged his opposition party with Mr. Rainsy's in 2012 to form the CNRP, is likely to take the top job, although he remains under investigation in a corruption case, also widely seen as being politically motivated, involving an alleged mistress.

The amendments must pass the senate and receive the king's assent, but both are seen as formalities.

  • Leroy Wright