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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - HRP chief floats union with opposition party

HRP chief floats union with opposition party

Human Rights Party president Kem Sokha announced yesterday his party’s willingness to merge with the Sam Rainsy Party before next year’s national elections, eliciting calls for increased co-operation between the two parties from the SRP.

Monday’s press conference at HRP headquarters was the party’s first mention of its keenness to join forces since SRP officials turned down a potential merger between the two parties in 2008.

But this time, the HRP feels it is approaching the subject from a position of parity.

“The SRP has looked down on the HRP, because it could not go forward or get much support,” Kem Sokha said. “Those were excuses that [the SRP] used to say it did not want to get together, but now we have similar votes.”

In a statement released yesterday, acting SRP president Kong Korm lauded the parties’ newfound closeness and called for co-ordination among SRP and HRP commune council members, but stopped short of endorsing a full-fledged merger.

Self-exiled SRP founder Sam Rainsy echoed the sentiment, calling on the parties “not to unite with words, but with deeds”.

However, he didn’t close the door on a potential merger, saying that the year leading up to national elections would serve as a sort of trial period.

“If co-operation between the Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party goes well, then it bodes well for a merger, but if you talk about a merger now, it is premature, and it is risky,” he told the Post by phone from Paris. “This is a test. If we can work together, then it will lay the ground for the possibility of a merger in the future.”

The talk of uniting the parties raised questions about whose platform would survive the merger, but HRP President Kem Sokha waved off such concerns, saying that both parties stood for land ownership rights, human rights and women’s rights.

“Our ideas are the same, because we want to change the current leader and protect Cambodian sovereignty and integrity,” he said.

Sok Touch, an independent political analyst and rector at Khemarak University, said that it isn’t just the HRP and SRP who should consider merging, but all opposition parties.

According to him, the opposition fared poorly in commune elections because, individually, they lacked resources, and splintered the vote by attacking one another.

“If those parties have only one goal for the sake of national prosperity and the people, it’s time that the opposition parties unite,” he said. “Otherwise, those parties are only giving the appearance of democracy in Cambodia.”

Cheam Yeap, a CPP lawmaker, pointed to the CPP’s wins in 1,591 of 1,633 communes as evidence that the Cambodian people supported the party’s efforts in social and economic development.

“We have built concrete basics, so we are not afraid of any party, even though those parties unite as one and there are only two parties like in USA,” he said.

Sam Rainsy, however, took a different view of the results, saying opposition commune council members could form a majority in as many as 100 communes.

“The real loser in these elections is the CPP, because when HRP and SRP come together, there will be opposition to their commune chiefs, because we will be able to block them,” he said. “The balance of power has shifted in favour of the democratic forces.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at sophakchakrya.khouth@phnompenhpost.com
Stuart White at stuart.white@phnompenhpost.com

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