10/15/2021, 12.02
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Phnom Penh: new law to exclude Hun Sen's opponents

The Prime Minister wants to prevent dual citizenship holders from reaching the country's most important posts. The decision targets the former head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, Sam Rainsy, who is in exile in Paris. 

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Cambodia's prime minister will make it even more difficult for his opponents to try to oust him in the upcoming elections. Hun Sen, who has been in office for 30 years, has decided not to allow dual citizenship holders into the country's top political positions. 

Last week, a Guardian story claimed that Hun Sen had Cypriot citizenship. Outraged, the Cambodian premier responded that he did not hold a passport from the Mediterranean island, as did some members of his inner circle, including family members. A Reuters investigation had revealed this in 2019.

The ban, which will have to be implemented by an amendment to the Constitution, will affect opposition politicians who have dual citizenship, including Sam Rainsy. The oppositionist lives in exile in Paris and enjoys French citizenship; he led the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), a party forced to disband before the 2018 parliamentary elections.

On Facebook, Hun Sen wrote that the amendment is aimed at avoiding "foreign interference." Voter registration opens this month ahead of the 2022 elections to decide mayors of more than 1,600 Cambodian municipalities.

The 2018 parliamentary elections were contested by the opposition after the judiciary -s controlled by the government- forced the CNRP to dissolve: thus Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) won all the seats up for grabs. The next national elections will be held in 2023. 

Formed by the merger of two minor parties led by Rainsy and Kem Sokha, the CNRP had almost defeated the CPP in 2013, getting half the votes and triggering the biggest protests in Cambodia's modern history. After the 2017 municipal elections, Sokha was arrested on treason charges and hundreds of his supporters began to be persecuted. 

Sam Rainsy stated that he would be willing to renounce his French citizenship, and then retorted by asking what is the time limit for the post of prime minister. A clear reference to the abuse of power of Hun Sen who has been in office for three decades. 

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