The permanent committee of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) held a meeting in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the US on Monday to prepare for the return of “acting president” Sam Rainsy to Cambodia.
Rainsy, the party’s deputy president Mu Sochua, party stalwart Eng Chhai Eang, and former lawmakers Ho Vann, Long Ry, Ou Chanrith, Men Sothavarin and Tok Vanchan were present at the meeting.
However, the decisions made were immediately slammed by CNRP branches in the US, which released a statement condemning the meeting and rejecting any decision made by the committee.
After the meeting, Chhai Eang said that 15 of the 24 permanent committee members participated, some via conference call.
He said the committee endorsed the decision to nominate Rainsy as CNRP acting president.
He claimed that Prime Minister Hun Sen had taken the CNRP hostage and the committee supported the EU’s call to restore democracy in Cambodia, release former party president Kem Sokha, rehabilitate the remaining 116 banned party officials and reinstate its officials in the 5,007 commune councils held by the CNRP before its dissolution.
Chhai Eang said the meeting had decided on preparations for Rainsy’s return to Cambodia, increasing diplomatic activities and sharing news with supporters within and outside Cambodia, among others.
“We are preparing a budget for Rainsy’s return to Cambodia, and we allocated responsibility for each task,” Chhai Eang said on Monday.
However, in a strongly worded rejection of the committee’s decisions, CNRP USA said in a statement that the meeting led by “fake acting president Sam Rainsy” was not official as it was a decision made only by Rainsy’s group and did not reflect the CNRP.
“The ‘acting president’ title of Sam Rainsy was not endorsed by Kem Sokha. On the contrary, [the decision to] put Sam Rainsy as acting president was the result of a party coup and goes against the spirit and principles of the CNRP without the acknowledgement of president Kem Sokha,” the statement said. It added that the decision was not reliable and was made to “cheat the public”.
Rainy did not respond to The Post’s inquiries on Monday about his alleged plan to return to Cambodia.
Ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan said the CNRP committee meeting was useless on the grounds that the party no longer existed.
He said the former CNRP officials’ activities were against the verdict of the Supreme Court and those who violated the court’s ruling would be prosecuted.
“If you are defiant, you can try and then you will see. [But] you don’t need to prepare anything for the return of convict Rainsy because the [prison] door is already open, and the handcuffs [are ready]."
“It is not hard, but what is hard is to find Rainsy to handcuff him because the convict Rainsy is a coward and dares not return [to Cambodia] . . . No need to waste time waiting for him,” he said.
He said that Rainsy “is good only at inciting from abroad and makes those inside the country suffer instead of him”.
“He gets benefits, but the others are suffering. Convict Rainsy has many tricks by using the hands of other people to gain benefits for himself. It is a worthless preparation because those who are waiting will just wait but [Rainsy] won’t return,” Eysan said.
Kong Korm, the former acting president of the Sam Rainsy Party, later renamed the Candlelight Party, who was rehabilitated by the King last week, echoed Eysan’s views.
He said all the activities of dissolved CNRP officials were against the law, including choosing Rainy as acting president. Korm said he was sorry that the banned officials did not respect the law.
He added that he did not expect Rainsy to return before receiving a pardon.
“Everything [CNRP politicians say] is akin to just ‘sowing the wind, reaping the whirlwind’. Those politicians sow the wind outside the countries while those inside the country are suffering,” Korm said, raising the example of activist Kong Mas from Svay Rieng who was jailed for incitement on Saturday.
Analysts The Post spoke to also aired similar views that Rainsy would not return to the Kingdom.
The president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, Sok Touch, said Rainsy’s announcement of his return was just a “test” to assess the level of his support.
“It is just political rhetoric. The collection of money [for Rainsy’s return] is just a measure of how many people still support him. The money would reflect the amount of support he still has,” Touch said.
US-based political analyst Sok Sakoun said it was highly unlikely that Rainsy would return without “clearance” from Hun Sen.
“Rainsy repeatedly lies to his supporters. He shows inconsistency with most of his statements,” he said.
Nonetheless, analysts differed on the impact of Rainsy’s alleged return. Asked what would happen should he really do so, Sakoun said: “I don’t see much of an impact should Rainsy dare to return without a political settlement. The show of support from CNRP locals is small,” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said that should Rainsy return, his supporters would be pleased and many would greet him in person wherever he chose to enter the country.
But he foresaw that Rainsy’s return “could bring an end to his life or to today’s real-life political drama in Cambodia”.
Mong Hay said there could be riots and violent confrontations between Rainsy’s supporters and security forces if he were to return and be arrested.
He recalled the incident in the Philippines in August 1983, when Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr, who opposed president Fidel Marcos, was shot dead when he got off his plane at Manila Airport upon his return from exile in the US.
“On the other hand, Rainsy’s return could compel Hun Sen to work with China, Japan, the US and the EU to find a settlement to the political crisis in Cambodia,” Mong Hay said.
Sakoun, on the other hand, said should Rainsy be arrested, it would not make headlines outside Cambodia.
“Since Rainsy does not seem to interact well with the West’s policies on Cambodia, his arrest may not be a big story. However, it may ignite popular protests by the so-called CNRP locals. Then there would be a stronger reaction,” he said.