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CNRP officials’ trial looms as Chanrath eyes party formation

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Former opposition lawmaker Ou Chanrath (left) and former CNRP vice-president Mu Sochua. Hong Menea

CNRP officials’ trial looms as Chanrath eyes party formation

Former opposition lawmaker Ou Chanrath said forming a new political party must be done with a thorough attention to detail because they will be strategically neutralised by the ruling party if they do not get it right.

He plans to form a new party at some point after January 4 next year.

“I think we will form a party in early 2021, in January, but I cannot set an exact date because I am waiting to see what the situation will be regarding the return of Mu Sochua and other [Supreme Court-dissolved] Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) officials.

“If Mu Sochua’s [planned] return leads to a [political] settlement, I am willing to support her although she may not need me in any official capacity. But I would still be willing to vote for her,” Chanrath said.

The formation of a new political party might also be influenced by any further developments in the trial of former CNRP president Kem Sokha, he said.

“If the court speeds up the hearing and there is a settlement because of international pressure or through negotiations, and Kem Sokha can return to lead a party, I would forego forming any new party.

“I will support him whether he wants my support or not. Spiritually I will support him and definitely I would vote for him,” Chanrath said.

Former CNRP vice-president Sochua announced recently that she and other former CNRP officials in self-imposed exile abroad planned to return for the trial against her and more than 130 other CNRP members and activists, which are all scheduled to resume in January and March next year.

She told The Post on December 27 that her plans to return had not changed.

“We’re sticking to the same plan as before and we’ll return on January 4. We have applied for Cambodian visas by using our US and French passports.

“We are totally prepared to be arrested upon arrival and be put in pre-trial detention. All we ask for is our constitutional right to return home and to stand trial in accordance with the universal human rights [standards] for a fair trial,” she said.

In response to Chanrath’s statements, ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan said Chanrath’s prospective party could be successful or it could fail, but either way it had nothing to do with the CPP. His success or failure will depend on whether he has enough supporters, Eysan said.

Regarding the plans of Sochua and other CNRP officials to return to Cambodia, Eysan said he did not believe that they would follow through because Cambodian embassies abroad will not grant them visas since their Cambodian passports were invalidated. And for those who hold foreign passports, they won’t return because the Cambodian government has branded them all “traitorous rebels”.

“The most they can do is stand in front of the embassy or at the airport and put on a show for their supporters so they can then say they had tried to return and their efforts failed,” Eysan said.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Chanrath should just form the party regardless of the former CNRP leaders’ planned return on January 4.

“For those who want to establish a [new political] party, they should just go ahead and form it now, there is no need to wait for January 4. And there is no need to wait for the trial of Kem Sokha because nothing will change his fate either.

“If Mu Sochua actually comes to Cambodia she will face legal action, but before she goes to court she must go and quarantine for 14 days. Thailand is one place they could be quarantined.

“For Kem Sokha, as Samdech Techo [Prime Minister Hun Sen] already said, his trial must be completed and he must serve whatever his sentence is so that he can be rehabilitated first before participating in any more elections.

“For those who have already undergone the rehabilitation process like Ou Chanrath, there is no further need to wait. Nothing will change. If he wants to take part in the elections, he should just form a party now before it is too late,” Sopheak said.

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