At a public forum on Sunday in South Korea, former senior Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leaders called on their supporters to “wipe your tears, continue your journey,” and “struggle” to reinstate the party.
The former leaders said their party was dissolved on paper only, but that its structure was still the same and the international community and Cambodians continued to support it.
However, government spokesman Phay Siphan on Sunday called the CNRP a “group of failures” that would not gain popularity. He also accused the party of holding activities that went against the Supreme Court’s decision, which banned CNRP leaders from participating in political activities for five years.
The CNRP forum in Seoul was attended by its former vice-president Mu Sochua, ex-opposition leader Um Sam An, its former head of the information department Meach Sovannara and other leaders.
They had appealed to supporters in South Korea – mostly Cambodian migrant workers – to repeat political analyst Kem Ley’s famous words, “wipe away your tears, continue your journey”.
Sovannara, who was released from jail after a royal pardon, said that even though the CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court its party structure remained intact.
“They have dissolved the CNRP . . . we believe in the CNRP, but the dissolution is on paper only. Now the international community and Cambodians support the CNRP. They said they are with the CNRP not because they love the CNRP, but because the CNRP’s policy is to put the people first,” he claimed.
Sovannara said in a dictatorship, the leaders’ care is to maintain their power rather than serve the people.
“We still have hope. We all know that if we split, we would lose. Our purpose is to make a change. The word ‘change’ does not mean we destroy the Hun family or Hun Sen’s government but we change via the rule of law. People respect the law. [We do not want] rule by law, ” he said.
Sochua said the CNRP’s policy is one of “reconciliation” and her former party will not consider any individual as its “enemy”. She appealed to her supporters to “Wipe away your tears, continue your journey”.
She said that her party won’t recognise the new National Assembly, which she claimed is illegitimate.
“We are not recognising the [National] Assembly. They are not our members of parliament and they have violated the will of half the people in the country. We cannot accept it."
“They are not lawmakers, they just representatives of the government led by the Cambodian People’s Party [CPP] and the ones who grab our [people’s] land are tycoons. If we want their help, can the party’s representatives help us?” she asked.
She said the CNRP continued to demand a free and fair reelection and will not agree with a government which calls on it to wait for five years. “They told us to wait for five more years. We don’t need to wait for five years. We must find a resolution now. We need to struggle."
Responding, Siphan said the CNRP’s cause would be a “failure” and its activities were against the law.
“They committed an offence and the CNRP and its leaders were sentenced by the court. What they are doing now . . . goes against the law. They lost their right to participate in politics, so when they take part in political activities, it means they are against the Supreme Court’s verdict."
“They have been failures for the past 20 years, and now their top leaders are split. They lost their right to participate in politics for five years. They are a group of failures,” he said.
Siphan also warned migrant workers in South Korea who joined the CNRP that they could face deportation.
“They went there to work, not to be involved in politics. [The South Korean government] could deport them to Cambodia because their activities are illegal,” he stressed.