After claiming for weeks that a controversial party slogan was not actually official, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party decided to remove the phrase from its official party platform yesterday in an attempt at “reconciliation”.
The decision was made at a central committee meeting at party headquarters, during which the party also once again attempted to install Kem Sokha as party leader after threats from the Interior Ministry that the process was invalid.
According to a press release from the party, the slogan “replace commune chiefs who serve the party with commune chiefs who serve the people”, was the title of the five-point political platform originally submitted to the Ministry of Interior.
The phrase drew criticism from the ruling CPP party, with Prime Minister Hun Sen threatening to charge the opposition with incitement. Multiple CNRP officials have long maintained that the slogan wasn’t official, despite now admitting that the phrase appeared within the official party platform document.
Deputy party president Eng Chhay Eang announced the withdrawal of the phrase, telling reporters that the committee decided to delete the wording in accordance with demands from the Ministry of Interior.
Chhay Eang warned that individuals who continue to use the slogan will be responsible for any legal consequences they may face.
“Sometimes we need reconciliation too. It is not an important story because the election is not over the slogan. It is over the political platforms,” Chhay Eang said.
Reached last night, party spokesman Yim Sovann continued to argue that the slogan wasn’t official, repeatedly telling The Post that the phrase didn’t appear anywhere in the official platform document.
“Slogan and platform are different, they don’t mix,” Sovann said, before eventually admitting that the slogan was the title of the platform.
Chhay Eang also said the central committee once again attempted to elect Sokha to the party presidency, a decision they believe the Ministry of Interior will honour this time around.
The Ministry originally rejected Sokha’s March 2 election, claiming it violated CNRP’s internal bylaws mandating an 18-month waiting period before electing a new president. Those bylaws were changed during the same extraordinary congress and have since been recognised by the government.
Chhay Eang believes that now that the statutes have been changed and approved by the Ministry of Interior, they will accept Sokha’s appointment.
Chhay Eang, Pol Ham and Mu Sochua also retained their positions as deputy party leaders.
“When the Interior Ministry accused us we just returned to the central committee to re-support [Sokha], there is nothing wrong it is according to the statute,” Chhay Eang said.
Interior Ministry official Prak Sam Oeun, who was assigned to resolving the issue with CNRP, declined to comment on the newly attempted election, saying he must review the documents first.
Additional reporting by Andrew Nachemson