Cambodian opposition politician applies for lifting of ban

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) – A veteran member of Cambodia’s dissolved opposition party broke ranks with his colleagues on Wednesday and became the first to apply for a government-offered lifting of a ban on engaging in political activity.

Kong Korm was one of 118 members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party who were banned from politics for five years when the group was dissolved by court order in November 2017 on a contrived charge of conspiring with the United States (US) to overthrow the government. Cambodia’s courts are widely considered to be under the influence of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.

All the opposition party’s lawmakers lost their elective positions, and the action eliminated any real challenge to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in last year’s general election, in which it captured all 125 National Assembly seats.

Kong Korm’s son, Kong Bora, later on Wednesday also applied for a lifting of his ban. The applications need to be approved by the Interior Ministry and then be forwarded to King Norodom Sihamoni for his pro forma approval.

The applications come during a feud between two factions of the former opposition party loyal to its two former leaders, Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha. Sam Rainsy has been in self-imposed exile for more than three years over a defamation conviction seen as politically motivated, while Kem Sokha has been in prison awaiting trial since late 2017 on the same treason accusation that led to their party’s dissolution.