Veteran politician Kong Korm, senior adviser to the Candlelight Party, issued an October 23 letter denying allegations that the party has anything to do with Sam Rainsy, the exiled former president of the now-defunct Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), who just recently renewed his public calls for the overthrow of the Cambodian government.
“I emphatically deny this intentionally dishonest attempt at linking the Candlelight Party to the extremist ideologies involved with this extremist group who undermine democracy in Cambodia and destroy the happiness of Cambodia in other ways,” the letter read.
Korm, who is also honorary president of the Khmer Will Party, said that the leadership of the party is separate from that of the CNRP and its former leaders Rainsy and Kem Sokha, who is currently on trial for treason.
The statements came after Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that any political party would be dissolved if it was found that they were linked to Rainsy.
Addressing a public forum this week, Hun Sen said that he had had complete information about a meeting between a political party and politicians living abroad who were known to be part of Rainsy’s group.
“If that party dares engage in any activities concerning Sam Rainsy, I will sue the court for its dissolution,” he said.
The letter said that the Candlelight Party is a new party that split off from the CNRP after some of its officials lost faith in the CNRP and came under pressure from the international community over Rainsy’s statements.
“Only Khmer democrats who are in Cambodia can undertake the tangible activities that can accomplish what the general population wants,” Korm said.
After the CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November, 2017, all 118 elected officials from the CNRP were barred from engaging in politics for five years, but many of them later received “political rehabilitation” and the ban on their engaging in politics was lifted.
More than 30 of these ex-CNRP officials have re-engaged in politics and some have formed political parties and contested the commune council elections. Son Chhay joining the Candlelight Party, Ou Chanrath founding the Cambodian Reform Party and Yem Ponharith founding the Kampucheaniyum Party are a few notable examples.