Emerging from a meeting on electoral reform Monday, senior ruling party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that the government is considering modifying Cambodia’s nationality law to ban those with dual citizenship from running for the office of prime minister.
Mr. Yeap, who represented the CPP at the second meeting of the new joint-party Electoral Reform Committee on Monday, explained that the change, which he said would help prevent treason, would not be introduced immediately but was one of the government’s long-term plans.
“We want the prime minister to have only a single nationality, and not two nationalities,” Mr. Yeap told reporters after the meeting.
“For example, if someone has two nationalities—one French and one Khmer—when the Khmer have a dispute with the French, which side will that prime minister take?” Mr. Yeap asked.
“This will take a long time and will be in the nationality law.”
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who lived in Paris until 1993 after his family was exiled under then-Prince Sihanouk in 1965, holds dual French and Cambodian citizenship. The CNRP president has twice fled to France to avoid criminal convictions—most recently between 2009 and 2013—in a case brought against him by the government.
Mr. Rainsy said by telephone Monday that he would be prepared to renounce his French citizenship if the ruling CPP introduced such a measure.
“Of course I would give up my French citizenship,” he said. “I would give up my life for this country, this is only a minor problem.”
Mr. Rainsy said he no longer needed France as a “safe place” to flee what he termed intimidation and violence from the ruling CPP.
“This has been a strength,” Mr. Rainsy said. “But now my strength is the support of the Cambodian people. With this strength, and with the overwhelming and growing support of the Cambodian people, I am invincible. I do not need anything else.”
Cambodia has permitted dual citizenship since 1996.
How can you acquire Cambodian citizenship?
I. CITIZENSHIP BY BIRTH
Those falling into the following categories acquire Khmer citizenship by birth, regardless of the place of birth:
children born to at least one Khmer parent;
illegitimate children born to and recognized by at least one Khmer parent;
children not recognized by the parents, but the court has passed a judgment stating that the child was born from at least one Khmer parent.
Those born in the Kingdom of Cambodia to foreign parents who were born and living legally in the Kingdom of Cambodia or to unknown parents also acquire Khmer citizenship at birth.
II. CITIZENSHIP BY DESCENT
Those born to at least one Khmer parent, regardless of the place of birth, are entitled to citizenship.
III. CITIZENSHIP BY NATURALIZATION
Those meeting the following requirements may apply for naturalization:
obtain certification of good behavior and moral conduct by the chief of the commune or quarter of one’s residence;
obtain certification of past criminal record stating the person has never been convicted of any criminal offense;
at least 7 years of residence with a residence card in the Kingdom of Cambodia (reduced to 3 years for foreigners born in the country) (no residence requirement for those investing at least 1,250,000,000 Riels in the country or donating 1,000,000,000 Riels or more to the national budget, or for those offering any special merit or achievement for the country’s interest);
currently residing in the Kingdom of Cambodia when applying for naturalization;
ability to speak and write Khmer and some knowledge of Khmer history, with proof that the person can live in harmony in Khmer society, custom and tradition;
mental and physical aptitude which will not cause danger or burden to the nation.
IV. CITIZENSHIP BY MARRIAGE
Those married to a Khmer spouse may apply for citizenship after 3 years of living together, after registration of a marriage certificate. Khmer citizens do not lose their Khmer citizenship because of their marriage with foreigners.