Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy officially launched his new “movement” yesterday, outlining the body’s agenda while continuing to refrain from calling for protests – the body’s original stated aim.
Yesterday, Rainsy said the new Cambodia National Rescue Movement had a five-part plan, starting with appealing to the international community to take action. The next step is to work with “economic” partners to put financial pressure on the government.
Next, Rainsy said the movement will encourage people to protest nonviolently, and appeal to the armed forces not to shoot protesters. Finally, the movement will appeal to members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to defect from the government.
However, Rainsy did not say when the movement would arrive at a stage where it called for protests, nor did he respond to requests for comment yesterday. In his speech, Rainsy claimed some members of the CPP could feel the tide turning, and were preparing to flee the country to live abroad.
“Some leaders of the CPP are getting ready to leave Cambodia to live abroad where they have sent money and bought passports,” Rainsy claimed.
“I appeal to fellow citizens inside the CPP, don’t follow Hun Sen, don’t die because of Hun Sen, don’t die on behalf of Hun Sen,” he continued.
The same day, he uploaded documents to Facebook appearing to show that National Police Chief Neth Savoeun and his family had citizenship in Saint Kitts and Nevis, while Savoeun’s wife – a relative of Hun Sen – also had Cypriot citizenship.
“More and more Hun Sen’s relatives and CPP high-ranking officials are preparing to leave Cambodia to settle abroad because they know that Hun Sen will soon have to step down,” Rainsy wrote in the post.
Rainsy first announced he was founding the movement earlier this month, pledging to use the body to call for protests against the ongoing political crackdown against the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Rainsy, a co-founder of the CNRP, fled the country years ago and stepped down as party president to avoid a slew of politically tinged criminal convictions. His replacement, Kem Sokha, was arrested in September on widely decried charges of “treason”, and the party was dissolved two months later for allegedly attempting to topple the government, though little evidence was presented to substantiate the charge.
Rainsy announced the creation of the new movement in response, although it was met with resistance from Sokha’s supporters, who see it as implicitly accepting the dissolution of the CNRP and possibly jeopardising Sokha himself.
Sous Yara, spokesman for the CPP, said yesterday Rainsy was a criminal and “mentally crazy”.“He is selling his nation to make it meet disaster,” Yara added.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Rainsy’s words, while strong, meant little coming from outside the country.
“The current democratic situation in the country is narrowing as the CPP strengthens security and bans activities of the opposition party,” Mong Hay said, adding that Rainsy’s activities “likely won’t be successful as planned”.
Fellow analyst Meas Nee said the calls for protest were “kind of Sam Rainsy rhetoric”, and didn’t think any mass demonstrations would be possible in Cambodia’s current political climate.
Nee said that the movement may be a strategy to preserve hope and maintain loyalty to the CNRP so that when the situation calms down, it can return.
“I think Sam Rainsy still believes in himself,” Nee added.