Following the departure of two core members of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) – chairman of the GDP board and co-founder of the party Yang Sang Koma and party spokesman Lek Sothear – who have both joined the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to assist the government with the agriculture sector, many observers and political analysts expect the GDP to soon collapse.
Sam Inn, secretary-general of the GDP, sat down with The Post for an interview regarding the party’s future and some of the criticism it is facing from some of its core membership.
After the departure of Yang Saing Koma and Lek Sothear, how does the party move forward?
We had already confirmed the departure of Dr Yang Saing Koma and Lek Sothear in advance of it happening and the move was made after consultation with the other leaders of the GDP, especially with President Yeng Virak, Prop Vanny and myself.
After the departure of one of the party’s co-founders, will there be a change in the party’s statutes and internal structure?
The GDP will not change any of its statutes or internal party structure as we will continue to use the same mechanisms that the party already has in force.
It has been suggested by some observers and political analysts that the GDP may fall apart after the departure of Saing Koma. What is your response?
Analysts have their own point of view and make their best guesses, but they do not have a deep understanding of the real situation within the GDP. They have the right to their opinions, but we ask that the analysts continue to monitor the situation and remain open to receiving information from new angles so that they can make their analyses more accurate for the benefit of the public.
The GDP has now entrusted you [Sam Inn] to replace Saing Koma. What do you think about the promotion?
First of all, I would like to thank all of the party members who have put their trust in me. I understand that this is because I am one of the co-founders of the party who has been with the party since the very beginning.
Therefore, the members all understood that I also contributed to the forming of the party’s policies, especially the Green Book, which is the policy guide for the GDP’s participation in the 2018 National Election as well as its Commune Council Election policy for 2022. These are the things that make it understandable as to why the Board of Directors chose me.
After taking over the chairmanship of the Board of Directors of the GDP what will be your first actions undertaken in that role?
The main things I need to do are to just work closely with President Yeng Vireak, Chief Executive Officer, and Prok Vanny, Chief of Dispute Resolution and Discipline, so that we can continue the party’s primary activities, such as advocacy on electoral reform and political freedoms, things that we have often done in the past with other political parties.
In addition, I will strengthen the work of the Board of Directors and increase its number of members, as well as strengthen outreach efforts on local level democratic initiatives to raise awareness about our ideology with the public.
What was the reaction of the rank and file members of the party after the departure of Saing Koma? Is there dissatisfaction among your members or any discord within the party?
The fact of the matter is that the departure of Yang Saing Koma has indeed disappointed some members and supporters of the party. But the main task ahead, however, is to continue with our organizing activities, such as holding regular meetings and engaging in advocacy, meeting members at their home bases and actively promoting the ideology of the GDP directly that way, and also through social media, in order to give hope to – and renew the spirit of – our party members once again.
How is the party preparing for the upcoming national election? How confident are the GDP in their chances of making any gains this time around?
For the upcoming 2023 national election, three or four months before that date we will assess the actual situation as it stands on the ground. We’ll look at the internal situation of the party and determine how strong it is and also try to measure where public opinion is at. After that evaluation, we will decide whether to run candidates in the election or not.
What do you have to say to those who are sceptical about the GDP’s chances of survival on into the future?
I would like to emphasize that since the founding of the GDP on August 2, 2015 upuntil now, our party has always faced many difficulties ranging from insults, accusations, contempt, financial shortfalls and the departure of party members.
Especially in 2016, we lost the founding father of the party, Kem Ley. And now more recently, the departure of another co-founder, Yang Saing Koma.
We have faced many obstacles, but our party will continue to move forward with vigor and hope to contribute to the promotion of democracy in Cambodia and the journey towards our long-term goal for the Cambodian people to be able to live a dignified life.
Today, the nation is fully sovereign and we will continue to adhere to the principles of national unity, justice and non-violence in our political efforts and I would like to call on our members, supporters and the public to understand our vision.
Finally, I would like to say that a tree with strong roots can endure many rainstorms. It might get drenched or lose a few branches, but it continues to grow. That’s the natural way of things.