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Opinions differ when it comes to new party

A meeting held for the “social network” Khmer for Khmer yesterday revealed trepidation among members about the group’s possible future as a new political party.

The group, which currently claims to advise Cambodia’s parties on internal democracy, has scheduled a referendum next month to decide the matter.

Khmer for Khmer’s creator, political analyst Kem Ley, brushed off rumours the vote had already been decided, saying it would be based on members’ votes and “not just centralised decision making”.

Ley also denied a media report that opposition leader Sam Rainsy asked him at a conference in Hong Kong this weekend not to start a new party.

“I said nothing [to] them,” he said.

At the meeting, around 200 attendees scored the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party according to 11 criteria, such as “members are the owners of the party, financially support it, and are able to fire and elect its leaders”.

For that category, Norton University student Roeun Sokha gave the CPP and the CNRP marks of 1 and 1.5 out 10, respectively, saying that while Hun Sen has been in power for decades, “Sam Rainsy also led his party for many years”, and “as a citizen, [neither] party listens to my voice”.

Attendees appeared split, however, on claims that a new party would strengthen the ruling CPP’s grasp.

“I would say half of these people do not want a new party because they are still CNRP loyalists. But half are looking to create a new one,” said Top Prohosh, a consultant.

A running theme was that both parties should be given time to reform, with Ley saying the completed rubrics would be compiled into a report of recommendations.

“[Khmer for Khmer] should stay a social network in the meantime, unless the political parties are not willing to adapt to change,” said mechanical engineer Marin McWilliams, a past opposition supporter.

“I’ve been in the political arena for a while, so I think anything can happen.”

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