CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua confirmed that she and other top opposition leaders met with former party President Sam Rainsy in Hong Kong last week, to “pay respect” to their former leader before controversial changes to the political party law ban them from “conspiring” with him.
However, Sochua declined to comment on the substance of the meeting. “Yes, I am in Hong Kong to pay respect to Mr. Sam Rainsy,” she said in an email Friday. Sochua was joined by party President Kem Sokha, fellow deputy presidents Pol Ham and Eng Chhay Eang, and others.
“The amendments to the Law on Political Parties force us to disassociate ourselves from Mr. Sam Rainsy,” her email continued.
The amendments, passed by the National Assembly last week, ban parties from “conspiring” with convicted criminals, and also from using their image, writings or “activities” for the party’s benefit. The changes – called for by Prime Minister Hun Sen – were targeted directly at Rainsy, who has a number of politically tinged convictions to his name.
Sochua promised that the CNRP would obey the law, but added that Rainsy’s influence could not be entirely removed from Cambodia’s political landscape. “The people of Cambodia who desire change will remain on the same path. We will obey the law but We Are Sam Rainsy,” she said.
Rainsy himself has been critical of the law on social media, taking to Twitter to accuse the Cambodian government of banning his image entirely.
“These photos are prohibited. Nobody can display them in Cambodia. Whoever is caught with a photo of this kind will be punished,” Rainsy tweeted on Friday alongside photos of himself on the campaign trail.
The law does not prohibit specific individuals from possessing or displaying a picture of a criminal, nor does it explicitly ban a criminal’s image from appearing in public areas.
But in an email yesterday, Rainsy maintained that “[a]ny person who would like to display a photo of me is likely to be a CNRP supporter . . . since my photo cannot be displayed at any public place, the prohibition is tantamount to a general ban.”
Political analyst Ou Virak said the former opposition leader has the “right to question how far [the law] would be interpreted”.
“This is Cambodia and the law can be interpreted however the people in power want,” he said.