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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Politics not quite all in the family

Politics not quite all in the family

Kem Sokhon, the brother of Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy president Kem Sokha, is continuing to progress through government ranks.

Sokhon – who has been openly critical of his brother’s policies since defecting from the opposition – told the Post yesterday he is now an adviser to senior government officials and has also been appointed to the position of undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce.

The younger brother of Sokha, Sokhon previously held a senior role at the Ministry of Interior, where he was a two-star general.

“Changing [work] is normal,” he said, adding that he did not expect his two new roles to clash. “It is no big deal for me. I’m just trying to help the nation. I have to make it better.”

Ministry of Commerce spokesman Ken Ratha confirmed Sokhon’s appointment to the position of undersecretary of state at the ministry.

However, he declined to give details of the new role, adding only that it had begun last month.

Sokhon was a member of the Human Rights Party, which merged with the Sam Rainsy Party to form the CNRP in 2012. After an unsuccessful bid at gaining a seat in the National Assembly at the 2008 election, Sokhon announced months after the ballot that he was defecting to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, of which he had previously been a member.

In the lead-up to last year’s election, Sokhon’s public profile increased when he began campaigning actively against Sokha and the CNRP’s policy promises to increase salaries and introduce welfare payments, saying they were based on lies.

“If I were in the opposition party, I could be a lawmaker,” Sokhon said in a pre-election speech. “But we must think of the national interest. How can I make $2,000 per month as a lawmaker and speak lies when grandmothers and grandfathers have nothing?”

Sokhon has spoken out personally against Sokha, saying “I am his brother, but even I cannot stay with him”, while the CPP has enjoyed pointing out the division in the Kem family.

“[T]he question we need to ask is, Why is Kem Sokhon not supporting his older brother?” Prime Minister Hun Sen said during a speech last May.

Contacted yesterday, Sokha said he was not interested in his brother’s recent promotion or his climb up the CPP’s ladder.

“I don’t care about it at all,” he said. “Everybody knows this – so there is nothing to say about it. I have no interest.”

CNRP spokesman Yem Ponharith said Sokhon’s ascension through government ranks was an example of the “political tactics” the CPP used and its policy since 1993 of luring opposition members.

“We trust officials and leaders of the Cambodia National Rescue Party not to betray our ideals,” he said.

The CPP and CNRP remain in political deadlock after the opposition boycotted the opening of the National Assembly in September, claiming vote-rigging at last July’s national election. Official results awarded the CPP victory at the ballot boxes, 68 seats to 55.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHEANG SOKHA

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