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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rainsy avoids Sokha issues in talk to youth

Rainsy avoids Sokha issues in talk to youth

2 Sam Rainsy

Making his first public remarks since members of his party were sued for defamation, publicly hounded for child support and accused of attempting to pay for sex with a minor, Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy touted his Facebook popularity yesterday at a pro-opposition youth rally.

Though he took pains to mention that his profile on the social networking site had garnered more support in three months than Prime Minister Hun Sen’s had in three years, Rainsy at no point mentioned the ongoing controversies surrounding his party, neither in remarks via Skype to the youths, nor in a private teleconference with embattled acting party president Kem Sokha, a CNRP spokesman said.

“[Sokha] discussed with Mr Sam Rainsy via Skype about disturbances from the ruling party, such as [local authorities] disturbing us when we have public forums to meet with people, and disturbances over putting up a party sign,” CNRP spokesman Yem Ponharith said.

When asked why the two leaders had not discussed the recent controversies surrounding remarks allegedly made by Sokha that the S-21 narrative had been fabricated by the Vietnamese, and accusations of extramarital impropriety made by the premier and a woman claiming to be Sokha’s mistress, Ponharith said that the party was not interested in continuing to dredge up these issues.

Speaking via Skype to about 500 youths at CNRP headquarters, Rainsy chose instead to focus on issues that have perennially been the subject of opposition criticisms – the composition of the National Election Committee and Rainsy’s own ability to return to Cambodia from self-exile and participate in elections – and even engaged in some anti-Vietnamese rhetoric.

“Therefore, the Cambodian People’s Party backed by the Yuon must think correctly. If they are aiming to have a joke election, not change the NEC, and not allow myself, Sam Rainsy, to participate in that election, then an election like this – there will not be anyone recognising it,” Rainsy said.

But Tith Sothea, a spokesman with the government’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit, said that the government was unconcerned with international recognition, and that what mattered was providing citizens with the right to vote in multi-party elections.

NEC secretary-general Tep Nytha, for his part, said Rainsy was obligated to recognise the results of July’s election, as all political parties had signed a contract agreeing to do so.

“If the election is already finished and he does not announce that he recognises it publicly, we would take those seats that he received to distribute to the other parties that were elected,” he said.

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