Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Concessions small: Sochua

Concessions small: Sochua

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy leaves the National Assembly in Phnom Penh
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy leaves the National Assembly in Phnom Penh on Friday after obtaining an analogue television licence for his party. Pha Lina

Concessions small: Sochua

Once again since the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party ended its boycott of parliament in July, the party is finding itself rebutting claims that it has ceded too much ground to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

In an agreement reached between Prime Minister Hun Sen and CNRP leader Sam Rainsy on Friday, the CNRP was granted a television station licence while Rainsy was made the parliament’s minority leader, a position formally “equal” to Hun Sen’s.

In return, the CNRP relented on a major sticking point by agreeing that no members of the National Election Committee could hold multiple nationalities, seemingly ruling out rights activist Pung Chhiv Kek from the position.

In an email to CNRP supporters, public relations director Mu Sochua appeared to address such criticisms against the party, saying that the “CNRP made no ‘major concessions’ on election reforms as reported by the media.”

Although supportive of the agreement overall, Koul Panha, executive director of election watchdog Comfrel, said he had problems with the controversial clause.

“On this point, it’s not that good,” said Panha. “In our political institutions and in the government, they have always included people [who have other nationalities] because so many were refugees and came from outside the country because of the killing fields.”

The agreement has also brought comparisons between the CNRP and the ill-fated royalist political party Funcinpec.

In the 1990s, Funcinpec’s then leader, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, served as co-prime minister to Hun Sen but was eventually forced out of power despite his position.

Moeung Sonn, a former board member of the Sam Rainsy Party who went into self-imposed exile in France in 2009, said the agreement would make the CNRP “look like Funcinpec”.

“[The minority leader] position is for advice only. It’s not a good idea,” Sonn said.

“[The CPP] don’t care about the CNRP’s suggestions.”

Sochua’s email also addressed the comparison, urging supporters to “please rest assured that President Sam Rainsy, the Minority Leader will not be the 2nd [prime minister] as during the FUNCINPEC led govt.”

Indeed, Comfrel’s Panha said that the CNRP’s position today is “much stronger” than Funcinpec’s in the past, as the royalist party was in a coalition with the CPP and had far less independence.

“In the end, we will see for the implementation of this agreement. We need more action and monitoring,” Panha said. “Yeah, it’s not easy.”

But the controversy may be of benefit to others.

Former political analyst Kem Ley, whose new political “network” Khmer for Khmer will decide on whether to become a new party next month, said the agreement would help “kill the CNRP’s popularity”.

“[The CNRP] are just taking these titles, [but] the CPP will play whatever they want to play.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Temi tourism project approved by the CDC

    The $500.4 million Tourism, Ecological, Marine and International (Temi) tourism project has been approved by the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), according to a notice on its Facebook page on Monday. The project is part of Chinese-owned Union City Development Group Co Ltd’s (

  • Rainsy will return at ‘favourable time’

    Opposition figure Sam Rainsy on Saturday suggested he would not return to Cambodia as he had previously promised, saying that like liberators King Father Norodom Sihanouk and Charles de Gaulle, he would only do so at a “favourable time”. “I will go back to Cambodia

  • US Embassy urged to stop ‘disrespecting sovereignty’

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation called on the US Embassy in Phnom Penh on Saturday to respect the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations after it called former opposition leader Kem Sokha “an innocent man” – a move deemed to be “disrespecting Cambodia’s

  • NagaWorld casino sees net profit of more than $390M last year

    Phnom Penh’s NagaWorld casino posted a 53 per cent net profit increase last year at $390.6 million, a sum which is almost equal to the combined net profit of all Cambodian commercial banks in 2017. NagaWorld’s parent company, NagaCorp Ltd, is listed on the Hong Kong