Constitutional Amendments Barring Dual Citizens from Key State Posts Prompt Contradicting Views among Politicians

Some politicians agree that the measure is justified while others are concerned this will be used to bar some people from higher offices.

While some agree with the move, others wonder why focusing on this at this time while the country faces so many challenges due to COVID-19

PHNOM PENH--The Cambodian government’s move to seek constitutional amendments restricting those with dual citizens from holding the four key state positions has prompted various reactions among politicians. While some agree that the measure is justified, others are concerned this will be used to bar some people from higher offices, with one politician wondering why spending government time and resources on this in the middle of a pandemic.

Pich Sros, president of the Khmer Youth Party, expressed his support for Prime Minister Hun Sen's move to amend the constitution to this effect, as was approved during the cabinet meeting on Oct. 8 and explained by Prime Minister Hun Sen in a video posted on his official page the same day.

"We encourage and urge the Royal Government to expedite the enactment of this law," Sros said in a statement on Oct. 9.

Soksovann Vathana Sabung, president of the Khmer Rise Party, also agreed with the prime minister’s move, saying that having those in the country’s four key government positions hold solely "one nationality" is an expression of patriotic will. This is in the spirit of uplifting national values ​​and national interests, he said in a statement on Facebook.

"But in my opinion, [this] should have been done for a long time [and should also apply to] the political elites and other high-ranking officials in charge of major political systems, including security matters,” Vathana Sabung wrote in a statement on Facebook.

Having political, economic, social as well as security affairs of the state overseen by people with only Cambodian citizenship will ensure national political security as well as prevent any interferences from foreign countries, he said. 

Prince Norodom Ranariddh, president of the Funcinpec Party, and Mam Sonando, president of the Beehive Democratic Party, also expressed their support for the amendments announced by Hun Sen. Demanding that those seeking to hold the top political positions are solely Cambodian citizens serves the national interest and will prevent interference from other nations in the country’s internal affairs, they said in separate statements.

However, Ou Chanrath, a former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmaker who currently runs the Cambodian Reform Party, disagreed, saying that dictating that government leaders may only hold one nationality was political discrimination and may affect the spirit of national unity.

"The deprivation of the rights of Cambodians with more than one nationality demonstrates a political discrimination, which will have a negative effect on the spirit of political participation of Cambodians inside the country and those living abroad, as well as national development in all areas,” Chanrath said in a statement issued on Oct. 8 in which he appealed to the government to reconsider its action.

Yeng Virak, president of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP), did not necessarily disagree with the measure, but questioned why the government was focusing on this constitutional amendment when so many other urgent matters had to be addressed. "A nationality issue is also an important topic, but it is not necessary to expedite the amendment of the constitution at this time," he said in an official statement.

The Cambodian government should focus on urgent social and economic issues such as the pandemic, floods, land disputes and drug trafficking, which urgently need to be addressed, Virak said, calling on politicians to stop provoking personal conflicts and instead turn to solving the problems people face and being a good example for the next generation.

Kong Monika, president of the Khmer Will Party, viewed this upcoming constitutional amendment on nationality as an old win-lose political game played by the old generation of politicians.

"In fact, all Cambodians, even if they hold other nationalities, are still human resources and can participate in developing or leading the country," he wrote in a statement on Facebook. 

"On the contrary, what is worrying is that [people of] other nationalities are easily granted Cambodian citizenship due to the laxity of law enforcement due to corruption .... and so on,” Monika said. “And some of them have gradually integrated themselves into leading positions in the country, which is dangerous for the nation."

The draft of constitutional amendments to bar those with dual citizenships from holding the top four state positions in the country was endorsed by the government during the cabinet meeting held at the Peace Palace on Oct. 8.

It only took a few days to get the draft approved following Hun Sen announcing that he had instructed Minister of Justice Keut Rith to study the possibility of amending the constitution to ban people with dual citizenships from holding Cambodia’s highest offices. These positions are president of the Senate, president of the National Assembly, president of the Constitutional Council and prime minister.


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