THE CAMBODIAN government’s latest move to amend the law to ban people from associating with anyone convicted of a criminal offence is yet another clear attempt to undercut the opposition and subvert genuine multiparty democracy, a group of regional politicians said on Monday.
The Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said the amendments were nothing more than a transparent attempt to “skew the playing field” before next year’s vote by putting yet more obstacles in the way for opposition parties.
“Less than six months after the ruling party laid the groundwork for one-party rule with its previous amendments to the law, they are further expanding their mandate for legal harassment of the opposition,” APHR chairman Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament, said in a statement.
“The fact this is coming so close on the heels of major opposition gains during the commune elections is telling.”
On Monday, Cambodia’s Parliament amended the law in a move the opposition said was aimed to hobble rivals of Prime Minister Hun Sen ahead of next year’s polls.
The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) led by Hun Sen voted on the election law to ban political parties from engaging with former convicts. Those who have had run-ins with the law also faced bans on participating in politics through images, audio recordings and writing. Political parties that contravene the new legislation face a five-year suspension or could be dissolved.
Under the new law, former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who lives in exile in France to avoid arrest in a number of convictions, is effectively barred from campaigning from abroad for the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
Calling the ban illegal, the opposition CNRP boycotted Monday’s National Assembly vote.
“The proposed law is politically motivated and is a political pressure on individual rights, the party and on rivals,” the CNRP said in a statement, as quoted by Reuters.
However, the ruling CPP, in denying the opposition’s claim, insists it would not impinge on democracy in the country.
Prior to the vote, CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap told Parliament: “These amendments are aimed at promoting the rule of law … and strongly respect multi-party democracy.”
Hun Sen has led the Cambodian government for more than three decades and shows little sign of stepping down from his post.