The daughters of former opposition leader Kem Sokha hit out at Sam Rainsy on Tuesday, accusing the newly nominated “acting president” of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) of leading a “smear campaign” against their father and “repeatedly lying to the public”.
The Supreme Court-dissolved CNRP’s international conference, held in the US over the weekend, nominated Rainsy as acting president despite opposition from supporters of Sokha, the previous leader.
On Tuesday, Rainsy said the decision to nominate him to replace Sokha was designed to “reactivate” the party and appealed to CNRP supporters to unite.
Kem Sokha is currently on bail at his home awaiting trial on treason charges.
Speaking via video on his official Facebook page on Tuesday, days after the nomination, Rainsy claimed the decision was part of a strategy to “find a formula to reactivate the CNRP”.
“We have just gathered at Atlanta [Georgia, in the US] to find a new way to resurrect the CNRP because we cannot leave our party in deadlock as our president Kem Sokha is kept hostage by [Prime Minister] Hun Sen."
“Therefore, the decision in Atlanta helps to reactivate us, determine strategies and make decisions in time. We will assign the tasks which need to be completed in the next few months in order to liberate our country,” he claimed.
Sam Rainsy went on to call for unity between pro-Sokha supporters and warned party members not to fall for any “tricks”.
“Kem Sokha is detained and he can do nothing as he has no freedom. They used Kem Sokha’s name and it is Hun Sen’s trick, and we need to understand this clearly. Maintain the stance – Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy are one person [with] one heart [and] one purpose, which is to rescue our country."
“Be careful – do not fall for the tricks and propaganda of Hun Sen saying that the CNRP is split. It is not true. We understand clearly that [if] we unite and agree with each other, we can ensure the CNRP’s victory, which is the victory of all Cambodians,” he claimed.
However, on Tuesday both of Sokha’s daughters took umbrage with a suggestion that Sam Rainsy made on Twitter.
He had claimed that as their father was “being held hostage” by Hun Sen, he could “reflect his true will only when he recovers full freedom and when he can publicly speak for himself”.
They called Rainsy’s claim an “insult to [Sokha’s] integrity”.
“If Kem Sokha had been concerned for his safety more than his conscience, he’d have fled Cambodia. He’s under arrest because he chose to stand by his conscience and free speech.
“Your dismissal of his opinion legally and legitimately expressed through lawyers and family is an insult to his integrity,” Kem Samathida, Sokha’s second daughter, replied on Twitter.
Kem Monovithya, Sokha’s eldest daughter, who was also the former CNRP deputy director-general of public affairs, said Rainsy has led a “smear campaign” to undermine her father and called into question his honesty.
“Sam Rainsy has repeatedly lied to the public that Kem Sokha’s messages are fake/invalid, despite confirmation from Kem Sokha lawyers and family of their authenticity/sincerity."
“Since Kem Sokha’s imprisonment, Sam Rainsy has led a smear campaign to undermine [the] Kem Sokha side of [the] CNRP, labelling them as spies,” she tweeted.
Besides Sokha’s daughters, many other CNRP members have condemned Rainsy’s moves. Among those who commented on his posts was Muth Chantha.
Addressing Rainsy’s comments, he said: “Will you be shameful for a wrongful act? A person claimed to be a democrat and a rule of law promoter, but he himself bypassed the party supreme law to get himself installed as CNRP acting president.
“Law is law, and no excuse can be made to cover up one’s wrongful act.”