Cambodia Youth Party leader Pich Sros filed a complaint yesterday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court against Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Kem Sokha in response to the latter’s encouragement of voters not to “waste” their votes on small parties.
“We would like to file a complaint against Kem Sokha . . . for inciting Cambodian people to discriminate against political parties and to hold a political tendency,” the complaint reads. It also accuses Sokha of violating citizens’ rights to select a leader they deem appropriate.
The complaint cites various articles of the Constitution and the Law on Political Parties related to Cambodia’s multi-party system and the right to choose political representation.
At a speech in Kampong Thom last week, Sokha discouraged voters from voting for smaller parties in the national election next year, because, he said, only the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the CNRP had a chance to win the election.
Speaking to the press after lodging the complaint, Sros addressed Sokha. “Don’t use a political message that kills other parties,” he said. “He divided Khmer into two parts: Khmer CNRP and Khmer CPP. So he excludes other Cambodian citizens.”
He added that opposition leadership might change in the future.“Kem Sokha now is 63, in 13 years he will die. So, maybe Pich Sros is the next opposition.
So, he should keep the way for the next generation of patriots to walk,” he said. Sros’s CYP was founded in early 2016 and received a total 1,509 votes in the recent elections, all in Tbong Khmum province, according to preliminary National Election Committee results.
CNRP spokesperson Yim Sovann dismissed his claims. “I just want to say briefly that he should do something more valuable than this,” he said.
Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun, meanwhile, said that the remarks made by Sokha were not discriminatory.
“Discriminate what? Every political party always says ‘vote for us and not for the others’ . . . It’s only a political speech,” he said.
He added that complaints alleging constitutional breaches would only be heard by the court if they related to legal or governmental actions.
Grassroots Democracy Party spokesperson Sam Inn said that while the GDP, as a small party itself, agreed that the comments by Sokha were inappropriate, a lawsuit was not the right step.
“It’s not good for democratic liberalism [if] you look down on political minorities,” he said. “However, we don’t think the approach to solve the issue in court is the right approach.”
Sourn Serey Ratha, head of the Khmer Power Party, agreed. “What Kem Sokha has expressed is his political freedom of expression,” he said. “In Cambodia we don’t have any law allowing for a politician to sue for political discrimination.”
Court spokesman Ey Rin said the complaint was in the hands of the prosecutor’s office.