Acting opposition leader Kem Sokha yesterday used celebrations marking the 23rd anniversary of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements to offer a veiled compliment to the ruling party about recent reforms.
Speaking to a crowd of Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters at the party’s headquarters, Sokha said that the Cambodian People’s Party should use this mandate to truly show it is not a “foreign puppet”.
“If [the CPP] is clever, it should grab this chance. If they don’t do it now, it will be the end,” Sokha said, before appearing to praise, with conditions, the government’s recent moves to deport illegal immigrants and revoke economic land concessions from errant companies.
Anniversary met with animosity
“Lately we see that they have deported immigrants back, which is something that has never happened before.… But we are not sure if they are doing it just for the image or doing it properly. It would be great if they are really doing it for sure,” he said, before mentioning ELC seizures.
“Now we are starting to see that they are doing it step-by-step, but we are unsure whether it’s for real. Let’s wait and see.”
While Sokha made comparisons between the Paris agreements and the political agreement signed by the two parties in July that ended a year of political deadlock, CPP lawmakers on the other side of town were plying a different, and more familiar, narrative.
Speaking to demonstrators outside the National Assembly calling on the government to uphold the liberal spirit of the 1991 accords, Lork Kheng, a CPP lawmaker, angered some protesters by linking it with what her party sees as its crowning achievement – the toppling of the Khmer Rouge.
“Some people told me not to talk about January 7 ,” she said, before making the link.
“So I don’t want to talk about January 7 – the second birthday of Cambodia, which led to October 23rd  … the day we got democracy and pluralism.”
About 500 marchers took part in yesterday’s march to various embassies, the UN and parliament.
While the protest was peaceful, City Hall later condemned organisers for failing to abide by the city order to stay within Freedom Park.