While a small group of university students continue to pursue acting opposition leader Kem Sokha demanding that he respond to accusations of infidelity, Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy yesterday called on followers to ignore attempts to destabilise his party and to focus on more pressing political debate.
Speaking to CNRP supporters in Phnom Penh yesterday via video link, the self-exiled opposition leader said that unnamed political provocateurs were attempting to divide his party and, without explicitly referring to the alleged instances of extramarital affairs that have dogged Sokha over the past week, described efforts to distract from important political issues as “useless”.
“They have mistreated us and jailed our [colleagues],” he said, in an apparent swipe at the ruling party over the jailing of several CNRP members and politicians. “[They use] threatening intimidation and twist things using every type of cheap trick, but we are not afraid.”
He said that unnamed political opponents were nervous about the success of the CNRP, and attempts to split his party’s leadership would fail. “People support us completely, while the other side panics,” he said.
Since last week, more than a dozen audio recordings of playful exchanges between a man and women, purported to be Sokha and two different mistresses, have been leaked online by a Facebook page called the Truth of the CNRP. The manner in which the leaks have appeared has raised legal questions as to how the recordings were obtained, and has led some observers to suggest they may be part of an orchestrated smear campaign.
On Friday, more than 100 students claiming to have no political affiliation submitted a petition to CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh demanding that Sokha respond to the allegations. A group of 30 of the students were blocked by CNRP supporters at a rally on Saturday at which Sokha was speaking.
The deputy opposition president called on supporters at the rally to ignore any personal attacks.
“Normally, in a free multi-party democracy, parties need competition, but they compete over a political platform, not over an individual issue,” he said.
In response to Rainsy’s remarks, ruling party spokesman Sok Eysan denied any wrongdoing.
“[The CPP] has never been afraid of this party or afraid of that party,” he said. “[The CPP] only thinks of developing the nation to achieve things that serve the people’s interest.”
Ou Virak, political analyst and founder of the Future Forum think tank, said that the campaign against Sokha was not gaining any momentum in the public sphere as people were suspicious of efforts to distract from debate about more pressing problems.