The Cambodian Youth Party (CYP) filed a complaint to the Ministry of Interior yesterday requesting the dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, as the royalist party Funcinpec reaffirmed its commitment to do the same.
“The words of Kem Sokha, president of the CNRP, in a leaked video show that the CNRP has made a conspiracy with foreigners for the purpose of colour revolution,” reads the letter filed by CYP President Pich Sros.
Sokha, the head of the country’s largest opposition party, was arrested last month on charges of “treason” widely decried as politically motivated. Controversial recent amendments to the Law on Political Parties give the Ministry of Interior authority to dissolve parties that associate with convicted criminals or undermine the security of the nation.
Sros confirmed the motion yesterday. “We checked the law and we saw that a party does not have the right [to file a lawsuit under the parties law], only the Ministry of Interior. So we sent a request to the Ministry of Interior to call them to the court,” Sros explained.
Both the CYP and Funcinpec had previously announced they would file suits to the Supreme Court to dissolve the opposition party.
He said the ministry confirmed the receipt of his request, but has not yet responded.
Sros, who has strongly denied any connection to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, went on to accuse other CNRP officials of treason in terms very similar to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s.
“[The video clip] shows all the CNRP was involved. Kem Sokha is the top one appointing to all below him,” he said.
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Minister of Interior, confirmed they had received the complaint, but said they have not looked into it yet.
Meanwhile, Funcinpec reaffirmed it, too, will file a complaint when party President Prince Norodom Ranariddh returns to the country later this week.
“We will do it as planned, but we are still waiting for the prince to come back from abroad,” said party spokesman Nheb Bun Chin said.
CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua, who recently left the country after receiving a warning that her arrest was imminent, said it was “obvious” that the CYP and Funcinpec complaints were part of a broader conspiracy to harass the CNRP.
“This is part of the big scenario to weaken CNRP,” she said.
Sebastian Strangio, author of Hun Sen’s Cambodia, said the notion that Funcinpec and CYP are acting independently is a “very thin fiction”. “These so-called lawsuits clearly bear the fingerprints of Hun Sen and the CPP,” he said.
Strangio said both parties are acting “either at the CPP’s behest, or in anticipation and support of the party”.
A recent anonymous article from government mouthpiece Fresh News suggested redistributing the CNRP’s seats in the National Assembly to minor parties – none of which currently hold seats – with Funcinpec receiving 41 of the party’s 55 seats. The plan was endorsed by ruling party spokesman Sok Eysan.
Strangio predicted that Funcinpec would blindly support the CPP in the event they were given any National Assembly seats, and wouldn’t have the power to act independently even if they wanted to.
“Prince Ranariddh has attempted to attach himself to the CPP in order to gain some semblance of power,” Strangio said, going on to predict that any seats Funcinpec gained would be lost to the CPP in the next election. “Funcinpec has virtually no political constituency left in Cambodia.”
Strangio said it was strange that the parties were filing a lawsuit at all, given that the Political Parties Law amendments already give the Ministry of Interior the power to dissolve parties without a complaint. “They shouldn’t need this intermediate step of an independent third party to file a lawsuit,” he said, adding that the government seemed to be “making it up as they go along”.
Involving third parties allows the government to “maintain a very thin pretence of plausible deniability”, he added.
“If you’re looking at the law in Cambodia, you’re missing the forest for the trees . . . This is very clearly a political act. They’re not even pretending.”