Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sokha does not support Rainsy’s ‘movement’, lawyer says



Sokha does not support Rainsy’s ‘movement’, lawyer says

Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy speaks to supporters about the newly launched Cambodia National Rescue Movement in New York. Facebook
Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy speaks to supporters about the newly launched Cambodia National Rescue Movement in New York. Facebook

Sokha does not support Rainsy’s ‘movement’, lawyer says

Jailed former Cambodia National Rescue Party President Kem Sokha does not support a new movement established by his CNRP predecessor Sam Rainsy, his lawyer and close adviser confirmed on Saturday.

Rainsy announced the creation of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement last week, a group ostensibly designed specifically to call for protests in the future against the government’s political crackdown, which saw the CNRP dissolved and Sokha arrested. The reaction from former party officials has been mixed, with support appearing divided along familiar political lines.

Former Sam Rainsy Party officials, like vice presidents Mu Sochua and Eng Chhay Eang, have shown public support for its creation, while former members of Sokha’s Human Rights Party have criticised the movement, saying it further jeopardises Sokha, who is awaiting trial on widely decried charges of “treason”. The two parties merged in 2012 to form the Cambodia National Rescue Party.

“The Honorable Kem Sokha, MP [member of parliament] and largest opposition CNRP leader has stated his political position concerning the newly-formed movement. He will neither join nor support the movement. CNRP represents 3 millions of voters which he continues to defend,” Muth Chantha, director of Sokha’s cabinet, wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Peng Heng, one of Sokha’s lawyers who visited him on Friday, confirmed today to The Post that Sokha is firmly opposed.

“He won’t join and he won’t support any new movement. He said he will stand with the will of the 3 million who have voted for CNRP in the past,” Heng said, in reference to the party’s support in the 2013 national elections.

Rainsy contended, however, that Sokha was merely withholding support to protect himself.

“He cannot express his support for, and even less join, the Cambodia National Rescue Movement . . . It would be very dangerous for him to do so given the fact that he is in [Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s hands while the CNRM’s declared objective is to bring an end to Hun Sen’s authoritarian rule,” he said in an email on Saturday.

“I appreciate the effort of Kem Sokha’s lawyer to confuse Hun Sen’s CPP [Cambodian People’s Party] so as to distract their attention away from our jailed president,” he added.

Rainsy went on to say that other prominent opposition figures had shown support for the movement, but that he asked them “not to express their support publicly” for “security reasons”.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay, however, said the disagreement falls along lines that have historically divided the two leaders.

“CNRP is two parties merging, but its organisation, leadership and structure is not one party yet,” he said.

Mong Hay said Rainsy has been more interested in appealing to the international community for help, while Sokha wants to effect change locally while still under the banner of the CNRP.

“The dissolution is just on paper, but the mind will not be dissolved,” he said, explaining that Sokha supporters may see the new movement as a tacit endorsement of the party’s dissolution.

“There have been some signs in the opinions and stances for a long time. Now, there is a rift, so that’s why I conclude that the creation of the National Rescue Movement is the beginning of the end of the CNRP,” he said.

Speaking to supporters in France on Saturday, Rainsy said the movement only exists to support the CNRP.

“We are stuck now, and we need something new to pull and open the way . . . I have one hat on, which is the CNRP, and I keep wearing it even though when I do things . . . they are under another hat,” he said.

Updated: Monday 22 January, 6:33am

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting