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Analyst coy on party rumours

Political analyst Kem Ley outside the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh in March
Political analyst Kem Ley outside the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh in March. He has played down rumours that he is forming a political party. Vireak Mai

Analyst coy on party rumours

Playing down a flurry of social media rumours, political analyst Kem Ley yesterday said he had “no plan at all” to start a new political party, but nonetheless equivocated, adding that members of his fledgling social accountability network might someday go that route if necessary.

“We are now in the process of consultation to find a way to create a sustainable social network. Mostly we are aiming to influence the decision making, not just for government reform and public reform, but also intraparty reform,” Ley said, referring to his newly conceived “social network” – called Khmers for Khmers – which plans to monitor the progress of reforms and offer policy advice.

However, he continued, if the current ruling and opposition parties – both of whom Ley said were too closed off to input – continued to ignore civil society’s recommendations, some of those within his network might take matters into their own hands and spin off their own party.

“Maybe the members of the social network will say, ‘If we give them the fish [and they don’t take it], then we will take it for our good soup,’” he said.

That possibility, however, was met with resistance in some circles.

Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy public affairs head Kem Monovithya warned against splintering Cambodia’s reform-minded movement.

“I believe this group overall has good intention, attempting to be a force to pressure CNRP in standing up against the CPP,” she said in an email. “In reality, their actions so far or in the form of a party in the near future, will benefit the CPP more than helping the CNRP or democracy here. Division in opposition has been key to CPP’s success for decades.”

Cambodian actor Sophorn Lary took to Facebook to also call for unity among opposition supporters, posting a video criticising unnamed groups who “are trying to manipulate how the [Cambodia National Rescue Party] leads the country”.

Ley, however, brushed aside those concerns as “pessimistic”, but acknowledged that perhaps a bit of outside pressure would goad the CNRP into becoming a better force for change.

“The more competition [between parties], the more quality and the more benefits for the people,” he said. “If a good party or new party will come soon, maybe the opposition will try to review its internal rules … and be well prepared in the future.”

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