Some two dozen ruling party commune chiefs have released statements condemning the opposition party’s new campaign slogan, saying it belittled their “heroic efforts” to serve their communities.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party’s catchphrase, which calls on voters to replace commune chiefs who “serve the party” with those who “serve the people”, has riled the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, which has threatened legal action for “incitement”.
As of yesterday afternoon, pro-government outlet Fresh News had released letters by 24 CPP commune chiefs slamming the slogan, which CNRP officials say they have no plans to change.
Ruling party spokesman Sok Eysan claimed the effort by local officials was a grassroots phenomenon, though their four-point statements were nearly identical but for the section where the chiefs describe their achievements, which range from buildings roads and schools to signing “more than one thousand family books”.
“The statement saying the commune council serves the party seriously looks down on the heroic effort of commune chiefs to serve the people,” each letter reads before repeating the words “incites” and “causes division in society”.
A local official since 1979, Mao Sophon, chief of Kraing Pongro commune in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, said he released the statement of his own volition and had encouraged his local CPP counterparts to follow suit.
“We work at the commune hall, not at the party. This looks down on the people so much.”
Also touchy about the catchphrase, Yeav Lay, Kampong Samnanh commune chief in Kandal’s Takhmao town, demanded it be changed. “I build roads for the people and sometimes spent my own money.”
Meanwhile yesterday, the CPP governor of Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district, Ek Khun Doeun, said the party was considering a request from Boeung Kak I deputy commune chief Ly Sokun to join their party, after quitting the opposition Sam Rainsy Party this week.
Sokun, imprisoned in February for alleged forgery related to giving an election observer the wrong identification card, complained about the commune candidate selection process in explaining his resignation.
But Meng Sopheary, a lawyer appointed by the CNRP to defend Sokun, said the decision appeared to be a bid for freedom. “He told me that his son was trying to get help to get him out of jail,” she said.
The son of another opposition commune chief from Poipet, Chao Veasna, who was also imprisoned last month over a 2015 protest, said his father had been approached with an offer.
“He told me that someone came to persuade him to leave the party,” Soeng Sophoen said. “[They said] that he can leave the prison whenever he wants, but he held his position.”