Four senior opposition officials will meet with leader-in-exile Sam Rainsy on Tuesday in the Philippines to discuss the heated political situation, as Prime Minister Hun Sen continues to raise the spectre of colour revolutions.
Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmakers Pol Ham, Eng Chhay Eang, Ou Chanrith and Yim Sovann will travel to meet Rainsy, with the notable absence of Kem Sokha, who remains holed up at the party headquarters to avoid arrest in relation to an ongoing sex scandal. Chanrith said the Kem Sokha affair was the impetus for the Manila meet – the second such gathering since March.
“We go to talk together because of the political crisis in Cambodia,” Chanrith said.
Rainsy, too, is avoiding arrest over a defamation case, and has been in self-imposed exile since November. Nonetheless, in an email yesterday, he insisted that “the CNRP leadership continues to do its work without any serious disruption. On the substance it is business as usual.”
Speaking at CNRP headquarters yesterday, Pol Ham said supporters were rallying not only to protect Sohka, but to “demand free and fair elections”.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan, however, said if the opposition did not think the elections were fair, Rainsy and his party were welcome to bow out of the race. “If the [CNRP] understands the situation is not fair and just in the elections, it is not necessary for them to join,” he said.
But Koul Panha, executive director of election watchdog Comfrel, said it would be a “crisis” if the opposition did not participate, as the result would not be recognised nationally or internationally.
Meanwhile, at a meet-and-greet with Christian community leaders on Saturday, Hun Sen took the opportunity to yet again speak on the dangers of “colour revolutions”, the largely non-violent popular movements that have unseated governments in the former Soviet bloc and elsewhere.
Without naming a particular group, the premier cautioned that certain people are currently working to attempt a putsch in the model of Ukraine’s 2014 revolution, warning that such endeavours inevitably lead to failed states, conflict casualties and columns of refugees.
“Before, when there was a colour revolution in Ukraine, people took inspiration from the Ukrainian model and wanted to do the same in Cambodia,” he said. “But now they do not dare to speak out because they see that it fails everywhere.”
Colour revolutions have been a recurring theme of government statements in recent months, with the term most recently applied to the “Black Monday” movement. The movement has seen rights activists dress in black each Monday to protest the jailing of Adhoc staffers accused of bribing Kem Sokha’s alleged lover.
Additional reporting by Erin Handley