Cambodia: NRPTT and NPWJ welcome Royal Pardon for Sam Rainsy as a small step on the road to democracy

15 Jul, 2013 | Press Releases

Brussels-Rome-New York, 15 July 2013

On 12 July 2013, Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni granted pardon to Sam Rainsy, leader of the Cambodian opposition and member of the General council of the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty.
As leader of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), Rainsy fled Cambodia for exile in France in late 2009, shortly before he was sentenced in absentia to 11 years in prison on charges he says were politically motivated, including falsifying maps and inciting racial discrimination. From the time he created his political party in 1995, Rainsy has been subject to assassination attempts, threats, intimidation, criminal cases and civil court cases.
The Royal Pardon will allow for his return to Cambodia ahead of the 28 July elections. However, Sam Rainsy, who is seen as the main challenger to current Prime Minister Hun Sen, has been removed from the electoral register and is unable to run as a candidate in the general election unless parliament amends the law.

Statement by Niccolo’ Figa-Talamanca, Secretary-General of No Peace Without Justice:

“No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty (NRPTT) welcome the Royal Pardon for Sam Rainsy as a small step on the road to anchor Cambodia’s future on national reconciliation and democracy.

“Consistent and meaningful reforms are still strongly needed to ensure free, fair and credible elections for Cambodia, as promised in the Paris Peace Agreements. In the lead up to the polls to be held on 28 July 2013, certain issues cannot be ignored: the independence of the National Election Committee (which is currently controlled by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party); equal access to media for political parties; and the conflict of interest in the voter registration process being carried out by elected commune councils.

“The Sam Rainsy Party stands for integrity, truth and justice, qualities that are sorely needed in today’s Cambodia if it is to overcome its past and become the real democracy its people are demanding. The first step is to give real meaning to the King’s Pardon by recognising and upholding Sam Rainsy’s right to participate fully in the political life of his country. We stand in solidarity with our good friend, a member of the NRPTT General Council, who has always upheld the core principles of nonviolence, even in the face of physical and legal oppression. NPWJ and the NRPTT call on the Cambodian Parliament, and Cambodian decision-makers, to reinstate Sam Rainsy to the electoral register and allow him to exercise his rights and give the people of Cambodia the chance to participate in a truly democratic process.”

Statement by Sam Rainsy, leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party and leader of the SRP

“I am most grateful to King Norodom Sihamoni for granting me the pardon that allows me to return to Cambodia and contest elections set for July 28. This is a step in the direction of Cambodian national reconciliation on the basis of democracy.

“I know that I have never done anything wrong. I would have returned even in the absence of a pardon to highlight the condition of democracy in my country. My return is no more than a step on a long journey towards achieving self-determination for Cambodia. Free and fair elections are an essential element of any democracy worthy of the name. The National Election Committee, controlled by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, has been identified by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Surya P. Subedi, as requiring overhaul before democracy worthy of the name can be said to exist in Cambodia. The mere fact of my return does not create a free and fair election for Cambodia, as promised in the Paris Peace Agreements, and does not advance NEC reform.

“In the short time that has been made available, I hope to be able to meet my fellow countrymen to discuss their concerns and to hold discussions with leaders of all political parties on the best way forward for Cambodia.”

For further information, contact Nicola Giovannini on or +32-(0)2-548-3915.