Convicted Dissident Gets Green Light to Register Party

The Interior Ministry has given Cambodian dissident Sourn Serey Ratha permission to proceed with the registration of a political party despite the self-exiled government critic’s recent conviction in absentia for plotting an attack on the state.

Mr. Serey Ratha, founder of the U.S.-based Khmer People Power Movement (KPPM), was convicted in January of plotting, incitement and obstructing elections—all of which he denies—and sentenced to seven years in jail.

Three alleged co-conspirators, who also deny any wrongdoing, were convicted in the same trial of plotting and obstructing elections and given lighter sentences, which they have begun serving.

Despite the conviction, Interior Minister Sar Kheng sent Mr. Serey Ratha a letter on Friday inviting him to take the next step in registering his prospective Khmer Power Party.

The next step involves submitting the personal details of at least 4,000 members, the biographies of at least three party leaders and proof of a bank account at a recognized Cambodian bank.

In a statement issued the same day, Mr. Serey Ratha said he would follow through.

“The Khmer Power Party will fill out the additional application forms in the second step, to be submitted to the Ministry of Interior, in order to open a headquarters in Phnom Penh and branch offices in the provinces and cities for convenient communication between compatriots and nationalists and the Khmer Power Party,” he said.

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