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Factional support groups

Leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, Sam Rainsy
Leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, Sam Rainsy, stands and addresses a group of supporters in Champs-sur-Marne commune, in the suburbs of Paris, on Tuesday. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Factional support groups

While opposition leader Sam Rainsy speaks in France about unity, Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters in the United States are locked in a factional dispute about who will host the CNRP president when he arrives in America later this month.

Speaking earlier this week in Paris, Rainsy continued to promote the current détente between the CNRP and ruling party, dubbed the “culture of dialogue”, saying that as they got on in years he and Prime Minister Hun Sen want to leave a positive legacy for the next generation.

“When we get older we must think of the reputation that we leave as an inheritance for our children,” Rainsy said, adding that he was speaking “on behalf of the Cambodian People’s Party and Prime Minister Hun Sen”.

But, somewhat ironically, as he heads across the pond to Canada and America this week, it’s his own party’s supporters that are divided, internal emails show.

After refusing to jointly host Rainsy, two CNRP supporter groups – Cambodia National Rescue Party North America (CNRP-NA) and Cambodia National Rescue Party of the United States of America (CNRP-USA) – have scheduled competing events to greet Rainsy in Washington state and Oregon when he visits the Pacific Northwest on May 21 and 22.

CNRP North America – a long-time party activist group historically linked to the Sam Rainsy Party – has arranged an event in Portland, Oregon, on May 21 and another on May 22 at the Filipino Community of Seattle, a hall in Washington state.

Meanwhile, CNRP USA, according to its Facebook page, has scheduled two events in Washington, in Tukwila on May 21 and in Tacoma the next day.

Both events claim Rainsy will appear. According to Rainsy’s Facebook page he will be in Portland on May 21 and Seattle the following day.

In a series of email exchanges, obtained by the Post, representatives of the organisations clash over Rainsy’s appearance.

According to the correspondence, over a month, cooperation efforts turn sour, with the groups disagreeing about whose responsibility it was to secure a location for the event.

In one email exchange, CNRP-USA tells CNRP-NA not to “stick your hands in [Washington state’s] matter”. Responding, CNRP-NA says its counterpart’s plans “crashed and burned” because of its lack of consultation.

On April 19, CNRP-USA “regretfully” requests that CNRP-NA withdraw its organisation from its welcoming event, citing a lack of honesty.

As reported by the Post in October, tensions rose among diaspora opposition supporters in North America following the merging of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and Kem Sokha’s Human Rights Party (HRP) in 2012, particularly along party lines.

Talking by telephone from Montreal yesterday, CNRP-NA’s Pretty Ma said CNRP-USA was aligned to the Sokha faction, and disagreements weren’t uncommon between the groups.

According to Ma, a member of CNRP-USA has also threatened legal action against CNRP-NA in the state, claiming the exclusive right to the term Cambodia National Rescue Party in Washington.

However, he said he was “95 per cent sure” an agreement would be reached in Washington state to reconcile the local chapters’ events.

He said that the groups were mostly split by “miscommunication”, although he noted there was “some truth” to tensions and distrust among HRP and SRP lines.

“It is unfortunate we are not able to solve it and allow people to put the interests of the leadership and the party ahead of petty politics,” Ma said, later adding that Rainsy would appear at CRNP-NA events.

“We have to move forward,” he said, of the event.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann refused to comment on factional divisions in the US, but dismissed there were tensions.

Asked which event Rainsy would attend, he said: “We will let Sam Rainsy decide for himself when he arrives.” He added that if Rainsy – who did not respond to questions from the Post – had time, he would attend all supporter events.

Ou Virak, founder of political think tank Future Forum, said that Rainsy wouldn’t suffer much politically over the split.

“These are basically fundraisers; that’s why the CNRP here doesn’t really care much as long as they raise money,” he said.

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