The Cambodia National Rescue Party will submit a second petition to King Norodom Sihamoni on June 13, a day before party leader Kem Sokha is scheduled to appear before court for ignoring prior summonses.
The party will begin to collect thumbprints for the petition from supporters across the country, asking the King to intervene in the escalating political crisis and to defend the rights of targeted lawmakers, and will be followed by a march to submit the petition, said party spokesman Yim Sovann.
Sovann confirmed that there would be participation from across Phnom Penh and the country’s 25 provinces but refused to speculate on how many people will sign the petition or march in the streets. The first petition had more than 170,000 thumbprints, but it is now under investigation by the Interior Ministry following accusations of forgery.
Speaking to supporters from Prey Veng province on Saturday, Sokha, who has been holed up in the CNRP headquarters since May 26, said “powerful people” were hurting the CNRP and their families, but he also seemed to strike a conciliatory tone.
“Khmers must awake and turn to find a solution peacefully to provide happiness to all Khmers,” he said.
Sovann was quick to clarify that Sokha was not referring to any specific individual when he said “powerful people” and that a solution was needed to end the deadlock, given that the two major parties were crucial to political stability in Cambodia.
“Any political challenge in the Khmer society must be solved by the two parties and the parties must use the culture of dialogue to find a solution,” Sovann said.
He added that while there was no official contact between the two parties for negotiations, comments by a Ministry of Interior official had given them some hope.
Reiterating a stand he took last week, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak, speaking to Voice of Democracy, said that Sokha had immunity and could not be detained or charged, however, adding that it would be prudent for the besieged leader to appear before court.
“It means that if he goes to court, it [the case] will be finished,” he said. “They are questioning him as a witness.”
As CNRP supporters in Kampong Thom prepared to collect thumbprints for the petition on Saturday, provincial governor Uth Sam An, in a letter to the local CNRP leadership, said they would not be allowed to go ahead with their activities, adding that collection of thumbprints would “affect security and public order”.
Sun Chanthy, the CNRP executive committee chief for Kampong Thom, said he was yet to receive Sam An’s letter but that the collection drive would proceed anyway.
“With the freedoms of the citizen in democratic society, there is no law to forbid people from giving their thumbprints,” Chanthy said. “Our team has already started the activities and is approaching our members [for thumbprints].”
Following the launch of investigations into the authenticity of thumbprints in the first petition submitted to the King, Prince Sisowath Thomico, former secretary to the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and one-time CNRP lawmaker candidate, accused Prime Minister Hun Sen of misrepresenting King Sihamoni’s letter on the issue.
“The King sent the case [put forward in the petition] to be examined,” he said. “It is not the King asking that the thumbprints be examined.”
Thomico said the Cambodian People’s Party was using the King’s letter to put political pressure on the CNRP, and that, in his experience working at the Royal Palace, the word “examine” was an administrative term and didn’t mean initiation of an investigation into the petition.
In yet another twist to Sokha’s alleged sex scandal, Keo Sophanary – an alleged former mistress of Sokha who appeared at CNRP rallies ahead of the 2013 elections – will go to the Anti-Corruption Unit today to file a complaint against Sokha, according to social media celebrity Thy Sovantha.
In an interview yesterday, Sovantha said her NGO, Youthful Social Affairs, will assist Sophanary to file the complaint, asking Sokha to acknowledge their relationship and an alleged lovechild. Sovantha is already suing Sokha for allegedly disparaging her in a leaked audio conversation purportedly between the CNRP leader and his alleged mistress, salon worker Khom Chandaraty.
Additional Reporting by Ananth Baliga and Lay Samean