With the Supreme Court's five-year ban on their engagement in politics having reached its expiration date, the remainder of the 118 former senior officials from the now-defunct Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – who have not applied for and received "rehabilitation" – have now had their political rights restored.
The Supreme Court imposed the ban after dissolving the CNRP in 2017. In the years since then, some of the officials have requested and been granted "rehabilitation" – an early restoration of their rights based on their good conduct and contrition – and have then gone on to found new parties, take on official party roles and run for the top office.
In addition to the dissolution, former CNRP president Kem Sokha was charged with treason under Article 443 of the Criminal Code and placed in custody in Trapeang Phlong prison in Tbong Khmum province before his release on bail. Sokha’s lengthy trial – prolonged by the pandemic and other factors – is set to wrap up in December.
Supreme Court spokesman Ouk Kimsith recalled that the ex-CNRP officials’ rights to engage in politics had been officially suspended from November 16, 2017 to November 16, 2022.
“In principle, we need to abide by this judgment, meaning that this ban has come to an end. However, when considering its implementation for each individual, only those who have not been carrying out illegal activities and have not had any criminal charges or convictions in that period can freely engage in politics again," he confirmed to The Post on November 17.
He noted that in principle, the Supreme Court did not issue written notices regarding the termination of these suspensions, but the parties involved in the case could request confirmation of the judgment.
Sam Sokong, the defence lawyer for former CNRP members and activists, agreed that legally, after five years, the banned ex-CNRP officials have the right to resume politics.
However, he said there are two caveats: First, there are those who were banned from politics for five years and still have other active cases against them, such as Kem Sokha. Second, there are those who were not officially banned but have been convicted since then or are subject to arrest warrants.
“Once the five-year period expires, those under the ban regain the right to resume politics without having to have documents from the authorities or orders from the court. They now have their full and autonomous rights.
“But some of the ex-CNRP leaders have not been in Cambodia. They are living abroad and all of them are subject to other lawsuits over crimes like incitement or plotting against the government.
“The court prosecuted some of those cases, while others have legal procedures ongoing,” he said, adding that the individuals in those situations should not assume an automatic restoration of their rights without first resolving the outstanding complaints against them.
The dissolution of the CNRP in 2017 resulted in the forfeiture of 55 seats in the National Assembly, 489 commune council chief positions and 5,007 commune council member seats.