A senior former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) official has said he believed Prime Minister Hun Sen would win the wager on the legal status of party co-founder Kem Sokha that Sam Rainsy made with him.
Suon Rida, a CNRP permanent committee member and one of the 116 party officials who remains banned from politics, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday, urging the opposition figure to respect the forfeit if he “is a man”.
Sokha is currently on bail awaiting trial. In November, Rainsy offered Hun Sen a bet that he would have his treason charge dropped by March 3.
Rainsy, who lives in France to escape a slew of court charges and sentencing, said he would return to Cambodia to face legal proceedings should he lose the bet, and challenged the prime minister to step down if this happened. Hun Sen accepted the wager.
Basing his prediction on the legal grounds, Rainsy said a person cannot remain charged for longer than 18 months without the case reaching trial. March 3 will bring that timeframe to an end.
“[I am] a hundred per cent sure that Sam Rainsy will lose this bet, and please respect your promise if you are a man.
“Please note – since the day Sam Rainsy used Kem Sokha to bet with Hun Sen, he no longer has any value, virtue Rainsy used Kem Sokha to bet with Hun Sen, he no longer has any value, virtue or morality for me,” Rida said.
However, Sun Chanthy, the former CNRP executive committee chief for Kampong Thom province, attacked Sokha.
“Since Kem Sokha led the party until it was dissolved [in November 2017], he has no value as a leader for me any longer,” he said on Tuesday on Facebook.
Neither Rida nor Chanthy could be reached for comment on Thursday.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the CNRP was born out of a merger between the Sam Rainsy Party and Sokha’s Human Rights Party.
He compared the Supreme Court-dissolved opposition party to a broken vase – implying it is difficult to get the pieces back together.
Phea said the CNRP’s internal structure had lacked unity since its creation, with cracks appearing when Rainsy formed the Cambodia National Rescue Movement in January last year, shortly after the party’s dissolution.
Further damage was done when Rainsy took the position of “acting president” in December at a party conference in the US to much outcry from Sokha supporters.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the CNRP was a broad church with little to unite its disparate members after its impressive initial progress. But he said such momentum was abruptly halted with the party’s dissolution.
“Just as many people perching on a moving bike are thrown about when it suddenly stops and falls, so those members were thrown apart when the party’s momentum was suddenly halted,” he said.
He said party officials had been allocating blame since that “fall”. But he believed the CNRP as the incarnation of people’s aspiration for change has still remained deep in their hearts and minds.
Mong Hay was of the view that Rainsy, whilst free and active, still remained a strong political force for those in power to reckon with, while Sokha had been silenced and rendered inactive since his arrest.
Phea said Rainsy was attempting to take over the CNRP by taking the position of “acting president”, which broke an agreement made with Sokha.
He based his argument on grounds that the Human Rights Party founded by Sokha dissolved itself before last year’s elections while the Sam Rainsy Party merely changed its name to the Candlelight Party.
“This is the difference. It shows that Sam Rainsy kept a political shelter because he was sure the CNRP would not last,” he said, adding that Rainsy did not want to see Sokha free of his treason charge.
“A good opportunity for Kem Sokha [and his] supporters, and for national reconciliation, would be to ask for a royal pardon or request his charge be dropped before Khmer New Year,” he said.
He said Sokha should, along with his supporters among the banned 116, request political rehabilitation after he was free from legal proceedings and form a new party without Rainsy.