Ruling party lawmaker Chheang Vun has accused popular former opposition Commune Chief Sin Rozeth of supporting the Sam Rainsy-led “Cambodia National Rescue Movement” and using a restaurant she opened following the dissolution of her party to conduct political activity.
The lawmaker, who is from Battambang, has frequently confronted Rozeth following her victory in the province’s O’Char commune in last year’s local elections. However, after the widely-condemned dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party for an alleged attempt to overthrow the government, all opposition officials who did not defect to the ruling party were removed from their positions, and Rozeth started a restaurant to make a living.
Vun last week commented on one of Rozeth’s Facebook posts, claiming that he had seen multiple supporters of the “movement” – recently announced by ex-CNRP leader Sam Rainsy, ostensibly as a vehicle to call for protests – entering her restaurant in Battambang province and using it to conduct political activities.
Since the movement was announced earlier this month, the government has been quick to accuse it – without evidence – of fomenting armed revolt, and of violating a ban on political activity levelled at 118 senior party officials when the CNRP was dissolved.
“I saw those who supported the rebel movement go to the dumpling shop. If this restaurant is used as a place to gather fire, it is really dangerous for Rozeth and it should not be tolerated,” Vun wrote on Facebook.
Vun additionally said that he was not interested in getting Rozeth to defect to the CPP because she had little political value. The comment appeared to be a response to Interior Minister Sar Kheng’s suggestion that the lawmaker needed to give up attempts to lure the former chief to the ruling party, made during a meeting in Banteay Meanchey last week.
“Stop trying to get Sin Rozeth to defect to our CPP anymore. Why are you going to Rozeth’s restaurant so often?” Kheng said in a recording of the meeting, making a thinly-veiled reference to Vun.
Reached yesterday, Vun acknowledged making the comments but declined to comment on them further.
Rozeth re-posted screenshots of Vun’s comments on her Facebook page, saying yesterday she was only trying to earn a living and that former party officials came to the restaurant because the food was good.
“The business is only to sell fried rice and to earn money for my mother,” she said.
She said she was also worried about Vun’s allegation that the place was being used for a “rebel movement” as there was no political activity being conducted at her restaurant.
Chea Chiv, former CNRP head for the province, said party officials went to the restaurant to support the former commune chief and help her make some money.
“We have no other purpose besides eating, and are not rebels or doing any protests,” he said.
Political commentator Lao Mong Hay said that there was little chance for Rainsy’s new “movement” to gather traction within the country given law enforcement’s heightened surveillance of former CNRP officials.
He added that making unfounded accusations was commonplace in Cambodian politics, noting that when “there is a good place for eating, people will go there”.