A defense lawyer who was among 118 opposition officials banned from politics for five years is looking to join the Candlelight Party once the ban ends on November 16.
The main opposition CNRP was dissolved in November 2017 following the arrest of its president, Kem Sokha, for alleged treason. The Supreme Court at the time banned 118 of the party’s top officials from participating in politics for five years.
In a letter submitted to the Candlelight Party administration on Tuesday, Choung Chou Ngy, a lawyer and a former member of the CNRP board, asked to return to political activities with the Candlelight Party from November 17.
Chou Ngy said in the letter that he was one of the 118 people who were banned from politics for five years, and on November 16 the ban on him would be ended and he would have full rights to join a political party.
Chou Ngy told VOD on Wednesday that he had decided to join Candlelight because it was fighting to demand freedom, democracy, human rights, social justice and the rule of law.
Among the country’s political parties, Candlelight was the most daring in pushing national causes. It was also the most popular party after the ruling CPP and had the potential to mount a political challenge, he said.
Chou Ngy said he accepted that there would be troubles due to joining an opposition party, but he would not back down.
“We have to be ready to mount a challenge,” he said. “[If] we want society to progress and have democracy, we have to dare to challenge more for the nation.”
“Since we can’t avoid challenges as human beings, we should face the big one for the benefit of the nation. Then our life will be useful for society.”
He added that even outside politics he had tried to help people through his legal work defending activists, but it was difficult.
“I have been in a legal career for nearly 20 years, and I helped society so little, and in some cases, our clients faced injustice but we couldn’t help them. So if we do politics, we can help, because in politics, we can be a lawmaker and have two important roles.”
The first role was to make better laws. The second was to monitor the government’s work, he said.
Asked whether he wanted to stand for election, he said that would be up to the party.
Candlelight Party vice president Thach Setha was indefinite when asked about Chou Ngy. He did not have any information yet, he would hold a meeting, and local areas would decide themselves who should stand as their candidate, he said, though he added that the lawyer would be welcome in the party.
“If he gets support from the place he works with, we will respect the decision from the locality. Our party is a democratic party and not a dictatorial one.”
As for other former CNRP officials set to be freed from their political ban on November 16, Setha said there would be more but he did not know how many.
Supreme Court spokesperson Ouk Kimsith said the 118 CNRP officials would be freed from their ban, but they could be involved in other cases.
“If they have done any activity later on and been sentenced by the court, it is another thing,” Kimsith said.
Many top CNRP officials — such as vice presidents Mu Sochua and Eng Chhai Eang — have been part of mass opposition trials and convicted for plotting.