Sam Rainsy has been slammed for saying it is a “stupid and disgraceful act of submission” for banned former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) officials to request political rehabilitation.
The “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved CNRP wrote on Facebook on Saturday that he appreciated fellow co-founder Kem Sokha for not disassociating himself from him as was the wish of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
He claimed that Sokha would have his treason charge dropped soon due to international pressure, meaning the remaining banned CNRP members would have their political rights reinstated without having to submit a request with the Ministry of Interior for a royal pardon, a process referred to by the government as “political rehabilitation”.
“Asking Hun Sen now for the restoration of their rights, at a time when Kem Sokha has not yet been released and the CNRP not reinstated, is a stupid and disgraceful act of submission to the Hun Sen regime,” he wrote.
Sokha was arrested in September 2017 and charged with “conspiring with a foreign power” to topple the legitimate government.
The opposition CNRP was then dissolved by the Supreme Court two months later, with 118 high-ranking party officials banned from all political activity for five years. Three have been granted rehabilitation after submitting a request, while one has passed away.
Rainsy’s comments were soon slammed by CNRP members .
Phan Chansak, one of Sokha’s four defence lawyers and himself a banned CNRP official, said “stupid” was a word that instead should be used to describe Rainsy.
“The one who is the most stupid is Sam Rainsy. He is like someone who has a mental problem. He will say this and then he will say that, without taking a clear stance."
“The one who is the cheapest is Sam Rainsy because he cheats and insults those who are devoted to the party, uses its president as the subject of a bet and raises money from activists and then puts them in danger with his cheating words,” he said on Facebook on Saturday.
Rainsy offered Hun Sen a bet in November last year that Sokha would be free of his treason charge by March 3, using his interpretation of Cambodian law to arrive at the date.
However, the date passed with no change in Sokha’s legal situation.
Facebook user Um Daravuthy said he did not want to even mention Rainsy’s name after he lost the Sokha bet.
He labelled Rainsy “selfish” and accused him of having no definitive strategy.
“Born into a noble family and never experiencing hardship, Sam Rainsy can be called a selfish person who has fallen deeply into the disease of stardom and thinks he is never wrong,” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said he thought Rainsy’s words were intended to deter those banned politicians who might wish to seek political rehabilitation from doing so.
He warned that few if any CNRP politicians retained the same popularity among supporters after leaving the party.
Sok Touch, the president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Rainsy was wrong to say what he did.
“In politics, there is always change. It’s not an act of betrayal when people leave a party. They want to do something else."
“Why didn’t he call himself betrayer when he left the party after being hit with a court case?” he asked.
Rainsy fled Cambodia to live in France some years ago. He resigned from the CNRP in February 2017 to avoid a slew of criminal convictions.
Having resigned from the CNRP, Rainsy launched the Cambodia National Rescue Movement in January last year.
But in December the same year, he “assumed” the position of the party’s “acting president” amid widespread criticism.