Opposition leader Sam Rainsy yesterday told his lawmakers to consult with the party and get their facts together before speaking out on the sensitive Vietnam border issue, according to a spokesman.
Addressing his troops after almost a month abroad, the Cambodia National Rescue Party president stressed that work would continue on determining whether Cambodia had lost land to Vietnam but called for a more unified and considered approach, said CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith.
“We do not instruct [our members] to stop [talking about border issue], but before speaking out, [we] need to discuss, we need real, verified documents to take a stance that we can consider the stance of Cambodia National Rescue Party to avoid [taking individual stances],” he said.
Rainsy’s comments, delivered to lawmakers at the party’s Phnom Penh headquarters, follow remarks by his deputy Kem Sokha last week, who said the party would steer clear of the issue to avoid raising political tension.
Ponhearith stressed that the Vietnam border was just one of many issues concerning the party.
He also said the party’s leadership had yet to organise negotiations with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party about releasing 15 imprisoned CNRP activists, including Sam Rainsy Party Senator Hong Sok Hour.
The men, say the opposition, were jailed in response to the CNRP’s claims of government complicity in territorial loss to Vietnam, either by way of improper demarcation or neglecting to halt territorial violations.
Since the crackdown, the party has increasingly sought to draw a distinction between its official stance and those of individual lawmakers such as Um Sam An, Real Camerin and Mao Monyvann, all outspoken critics of the government’s border policies.
Yim Sovann, also a CNRP spokesman, said the party’s future border campaigning would be guided by five principles developed by Rainsy.
Posted on Facebook, they include ceasing direct attacks on the CPP and individuals, not rising to accusations, reframing the issue as a bilateral dispute rather than a political clash, and improving research.
Saying the party wanted to shift its focus away from the focus on maps, he added: “There’s not just the map, but how the demarcation has been implemented and whether neighbouring countries have respected that.”
Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Esyan welcomed the CNRP’s new approach. “We have never been narrow-minded with people sharing opinions, but the opinions must be in a constructive spirit,” Eysan said.