Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha has invited members of the Kingdom’s largest opposition group, the Sam Rainsy Party, to defect to the HRP following the announcement this week that ex-SRP lawmaker Mao Monyvann would join the party.
Mao Monyvann, formerly an SRP parliamentarian from Kampong Cham province, resigned from his post earlier this month before holding a press conference this week to criticise the SRP leadership, accusing lawmakers Yim Sovann and Eng Chhay Eang of wielding excessive control over the party. In the aftermath of his comments, the SRP asked him to resign from the party and he joined the HRP.
SRP head Sam Rainsy now lives abroad to avoid a pair of jail terms totalling 12 years that were handed down against him last year in connection with a protest he staged at the Vietnamese border in 2009. He was stripped of his parliamentary seat earlier this month as a result of his convictions.
“The HRP will become the biggest opposition party in Cambodia if Sam Rainsy cannot return,” Kem Sokha said.
“We do not want him to be absent – I want to have him here as a partner,” Kem Sokha added. “But if he is not present, I believe the HRP will play an important role in pressing for a change from the current leadership.”
Yim Sovann said Kem Sokha was “dreaming” if he thought the HRP could become the Kingdom’s largest opposition party, noting that the HRP only holds three seats in the National Assembly compared with the SRP’s 25.
The spat raises questions about the proposed merger between the parties, which have been in talks for months but have yet to reach an agreement.
Merger talks between the HRP and SRP have stalled in part due to disagreements about the leadership structure of a unified party. SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said yesterday that his party was still committed to the negotiations, but that Mao Monyvann’s public criticisms this week had prompted a reassessment of the proposal.
“The HRP used Mao Monyvann’s attack and broadcasted it on the radio, and it is not right to act this way,” Son Chhay said.
Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the recent bickering among the opposition parties showed that a merger was unlikely.
“They cannot live together, and it has been this way for a long time,” he said. “The SRP has 25 parliamentarians and they do not allow a party with three parliamentarians to control them.”