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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Assistant to Kem Sokha faces sacking

Assistant to Kem Sokha faces sacking

Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha
Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha talk to the media in Phnom Penh earlier this year. A CNRP employee faces questioning today after she made public accusations about payoffs during political negotiations. Heng Chivoan

Assistant to Kem Sokha faces sacking

An assistant to deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha faces potential dismissal today after going public with what she says are allegations that CNRP leader Sam Rainsy misappropriated millions of dollars.

On the sidelines of an event held by Kem Ley’s Khmer for Khmer “social movement” on Saturday, Lak Sopheap claimed that Sokha had accused Rainsy of accepting $20 million to negotiate with Prime Minister Hun Sen during the political deadlock earlier this year.

Sokha, Sopheap alleged, made the accusation in a central committee meeting, after she had informed him that “party negotiators” – not Rainsy himself – had agreed to accept payments worth up to $40 million.

“Mr Kem Sokha said that Mr Sam Rainsy received $20 million,” she repeated yesterday. “Mr Kem Sokha raised it … on December 5. I don’t know why [he] said it like this.”

The CNRP dismissed these claims outright yesterday, summoning Sopheap – a party committee member and adviser to Sokha in his role as National Assembly first deputy chairman – for questioning in front of the party’s disciplinary committee today.

Ou Chanrith, chairman of the committee, said Sopheap would be expected to provide evidence to support her claims – or face the consequences.

“I want to listen to her explanation before doing anything [punitive against her],” he said. “If she does not have proper evidence … she could face dismissal.”

The party was obliged to take action against any “unreasonable” allegation affecting the reputation of its leaders, or which is contrary to the party’s position, he added.

The prospect of such action, however, left Sopheap unfazed yesterday.

“I’m not worried that they will dismiss me [from the party],” she said. “I have been involved in politics since 1991.”

Both Sokha and Rainsy are away on a party tour of Europe. Contacted by email, Rainsy yesterday referred questions to opposition spokesman Yim Sovann, who along with Sokha could not be reached.

CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua condemned the accusations, saying that criticism against the party and its leaders is welcome as long as it is supported by evidence.

“If [Sopheap] – or anyone else – has the proof, go ahead and bring the proof,” she said. “We need to end these back-and-forth allegations, [but] go ahead and check our books, we have auditors.”

It wasn’t the first time that Sopheap had spoken out against the party, Sochua added, without elaborating on previous instances.

Rumours of general disunity in the opposition have been ongoing since the Sam Rainsy Party merged with Sokha’s Human Rights Party in 2012.

Sopheap’s “one-person press conference” – as Sochua dubbed it yesterday – came as social analyst Kem Ley’s Khmer for Khmer group continued its grassroots campaign aimed at providing diversity and alternatives to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the CNRP.

At least five CNRP activists attended the Khmer for Khmer event in Phnom Penh on Saturday, along with some 200 farmers, monks, youths and indigenous community members, Ley said.

But the network was not urging Sopheap or any other CNRP members to defect, he added.

“We have built relationships with CNRP activists … but we have not accepted them as members,” Ley said. “We’ve told them to stay in their party for now.”

Ley said he was not aware of Sopheap’s comments until well after the event had finished.

“I do not know much about that. I heard a rumour, I heard from Facebook, what she said. This is her business.… She came to look at and observe our activity,” he said.

During the event, Khmer for Khmer “principles and a work plan” were approved and supporters from at least 27 communes across a number of provinces agreed to establish local branches in the first quarter of 2015.

“We will train them in the community,” he said. “All of them are committed to supporting Khmer for Khmer.”

An earlier version of this story misidentified Lak Sopheap as an "adviser" to Kem Sokha. She is, in fact, an assistant. The Post regrets any confusion this may have caused.

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