Opposition leader Kem Sokha struck a defiant tone before supporters in the US city of Philadelphia on Friday, saying the opposition would not be cowed by intimidation from the ruling party. The speech was one part of a fundraising jaunt by Sokha in the United States, and other CNRP leaders elsewhere, heading into next month’s commune elections.
“We have been threatened to be fearful so that we flee the country and leave the country for them,” Sokha said in a video of the speech circulating on Facebook, in an apparent reference to the ruling CPP.
“Nowadays, they are frightening citizens,” he said, referring to attempts by the CPP to paint an opposition victory as an inevitable path to conflict.
Sokha also took aim at ruling party officials for attempting to restrict freedom of expression and cited the six months he was holed up in the party headquarters fearing arrest in a trumped-up “prostitution” case.
“In the current situation, there are some roads they can walk, but we cannot walk. Some words they can speak, but we cannot speak,” he said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said Sokha was “twisting the situation” to garner support abroad. “Why does he say he has no freedom to do political activity?” Eysan said, citing Sokha’s ability to freely travel, speak and post on Facebook.
Defending Prime Minister Hun Sen’s threat that war could follow a hypothetical CNRP victory, Eysan said the fault would lie with the CNRP, not the CPP.
“[If Sokha] enforces his political platform it really makes war because [the CNRP] takes property of the rich to distribute to the poor,” Sok Eysan said, an apparent reference to the opposition’s past pledges to set up a tribunal to investigate land grabs.
Also abroad are CNRP deputies Pol Ham and Eng Chhay Eang, who will land in South Korea to meet with migrant workers on May 7, while Mu Sochua visited Europe last month.
The party has released an appeal for supporters abroad to donate funds for the upcoming elections. But a clause in the controversial amendments to the Law on Political Parties, which analysts say was designed to target the CNRP, may see them tread more carefully when soliciting funds overseas.
The new law prohibits political parties from receiving “contributions in any form” from foreign institutions, companies or individuals.
Sochua was confident the law will not affect the CNRP, which she stressed only accepts funds from Cambodians abroad, not foreigners. Justice spokesman Chin Malin agreed this would not be an issue.
Additional reporting by Kong Meta