Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, along with the rest of his party, condemned the opening of the National Assembly yesterday, saying in a speech delivered in Siem Reap that the action violated the constitution and had reverted the country to “communist” rule.
Even as rumours swirled about a fake letter purporting to show Cambodia National Recue Party second-in-command Kem Sokha promising to join the parliament in exchange for key positions in the assembly, Sokha and Rainsy presented a unified front in lambasting the ruling Cambodian People’s Party for refusing to delay the body’s first meeting.
“Now their party controls the state and society like in the communist era, going back before the 1991 agreement,” Rainsy said, speaking at Monisovann pagoda. “This is also a violation of the Paris [Peace] Agreement, violating the constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, because it is not a multi-party [system], but a unilateral party [system], the same as in communist times.”
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, however, took issue with Rainsy and Sokha’s characterisation.
“How is it ruled in the style of communism? Where is the communism?” he said. “We respect the constitution because the constitution embraces a liberal multi-party democracy policy. [But] if their party does not enter, who points a gun to threaten them to enter?”
The 55 elected CNRP lawmakers – and eight others the party maintains would have been elected had the vote count been fair – were in Siem Reap town to formulate a strategy for dealing with the current situation, Rainsy said.
Deputy CNRP president Sokha took time yesterday to vehemently deny the authenticity of a letter bearing his signature and addressed to Prime Minister Hun Sen that started circulating yesterday. In the letter, the lawmaker-elect appeared to promise to bring 23 parliamentarians to take their seats, while accepting the role of vice-president of the National Assembly, and the leadership of four committees for fellow opposition members.
“Falsifying my signature and taking my name to use for vilification, this is a trick of knaves who have seen my strong stance,” he said.
“They know that I have a strong stance to defend the will of the citizens, defend justice for the citizens, so they want to defame my name,” Sokha added.
Prak Sokhon, who has served as a CPP spokesman during negotiations with the opposition, confirmed yesterday that he had seen the letter, but declined to comment on its authenticity.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said yesterday that the opposition’s decision to stay away from Phnom Penh – and especially to have their own oath-taking ceremony among Siem Reap’s ancient temples – would resonate well with their supporters.
“To stay away, and then to go there to take its own oath in front of the ancient altar and all that, that was to confirm to its followers that, yes, we mean business. You wanted us to stay away from the National Assembly, now we are doing it,” he said. “Secondly, it is the place, and for Cambodians, it’s very meaningful.”
Political analyst Sok Touch, however, took a slightly different view.
According to him, the move was a win for the opposition in that they made good on their promise to boycott the opening session. But, he added, it was also a win for the ruling party – who succeeded in convening the assembly anyway – and a win for the King, who presided over an orderly ceremony.
“The losers are all 14 million [Cambodian] people in that they struggled to vote for the leaders, but the leaders are unable to cope politically,” he said.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday that further protests were still an option, and that the only thing that would end the party’s boycott of the assembly was “justice for the voters, the truth of the election and the complete measure of reform”.
“We cannot stay quiet. Half the population of Cambodia does not have representatives in the parliament.”