Cambodia National Rescue Party officials yesterday fanned out across the country to call for calm amongst grassroots members, as the European Parliament passed a resolution demanding the government revoke a two-year prison term levelled against opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who remains abroad.
Splitting into three teams, the lawmakers visited several provinces as part of a four-day national tour to discuss the party’s strategy after a tumultuous month.
Since October 26 – when two opposition lawmakers were bashed outside the National Assembly by men who emerged from a pro-Cambodian People’s Party rally – the CNRP has seen its leader, Sam Rainsy, booted from parliament and slapped with an arrest warrant, and his deputy Kem Sokha ousted as the assembly’s first vice president.
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“We are promoting the culture of dialogue, even if we have some challenges,” CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said of the party’s message.
“We have to do everything to work towards the preparation of national and commune elections … We have to strengthen our structure, we have to train our local leaders … and our speakers, the people who are in charge of disseminating our message to the villages, door-to-door.”
Sovann, who led a delegation to Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces yesterday, said rank-and-file morale remained strong.
“Our supporters are still smiling, even if the political situation is tense; they get used to it. Mr Sam Rainsy, this is not the first time he has stayed abroad, but several times already, so we get used to it … We are not a one-man or two-man party.”
Stripped of his lawmaker status and parliamentary immunity, the CNRP president has not returned to Cambodia since the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, on November 13, ordered the enforcement of a long-dormant 2011 conviction for defaming Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in 2008.
When the warrant was issued, Rainsy was visiting Japan and South Korea.
Earlier this week, he flew from the Philippines to Europe, where he has spent more than five years in self-imposed exile in the past to avoid prison on charges considered politically motivated.
Yesterday, he attended the European Parliament session in Strasbourg, France, where MEPs voted to pass a resolution condemning the ruling CPP government’s recent persecution of the opposition.
It called for “trumped up” cases against Rainsy and other opposition figures to be dropped, for Rainsy to be reinstated as a lawmaker and for a full investigation into the bashing of the two CNRP lawmakers, among other things.