The National Assembly of Cambodia unanimously passed amendments to its constitution on Monday to prohibit the country’s leaders from being citizens of other jurisdictions. The constitutional amendments are designed to “determine the sole Khmer nationality for the President of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate, the Prime Minister and the President of the Constitutional Council.”
President of the National Assembly, Samdech Heng Samrin, explained that the change comes in light of the importance of the bodies headed by the leaders. As the bodies ensure Cambodia’s independence and sovereignty, the amendments aim to support “[t]he nation and the territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the national interest and the people of Cambodia, as well as the absolute opposition to foreign interference in the internal affairs of the nation or the directing of Cambodia’s national and international policies.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who leads the Cambodian People’s Party, which has been in power since 1979, spearheaded the amendments. While the Cambodian People’s Party is not reported to have dual citizens holding its top positions, the opposition party does.
The amendments have implications for democracy in the country. Cambodians cannot freely vote for their political leaders when certain leaders are barred from occupying a top office on account of their citizenship status. With the current composition of the National Assembly, Cambodians will face challenges voting in other political parties and reducing the Cambodian People’s Party’s control if the citizenry so wished. This is of particular concern given the amendments stem from political will instead of a referendum, which could have made the amendments better reflect the Cambodian citizenry’s will.
Before entering into force, the amendments must also be approved by the Senate and Constitutional Council and receive the signature of the King, Norodom Sihamoni.