A day after registering his political party, Khmer United Party, spokesman Kuch Ly on Wednesday expressed support for the Sam Rainsy-led Cambodia National Rescue Movement, a group Prime Minister Hun Sen has branded as terrorists.
Initially called the Kem Ley Party, the KUP was formed by Ly and the late political commentator Kem Ley’s brother, Kem Rithisith, and registered on Tuesday, according to a Ministry of Interior document the latter posted on Facebook.
Shortly after being registered, Ly sent a letter to CNRM leaders Sam Rainsy and Mu Sochua pledging his support to the group’s cause, adding that not all the activities of the opposition were “bad”. In the past, Ly has also said that he was a supporter of the Cambodia National Rescue Party in France.
“I still defend that I am not wrong. If I appeal to people to have an insurgency against the government, then I am wrong. This only means that not all of his [Rainsy] and CNRM’s activities are bad,” Ly told The Post Wednesday morning.
He also advocated for the release of jailed “prisoners of conscience”, including former Cambodia National Rescue Party President Kem Sokha.
The CNRM was formed by a faction of former CNRP members in January to lobby foreign governments and to push for the release of Sokha. It has also floated the possibility of calling for mass protests against the crackdown on the opposition in Cambodia.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has been quick to call the movement a “rebel group”, and government officials were instructed to crack down on any local activities linked to them.
The KUP stripped the name of slain analyst Kem Ley to be in compliance with amendments made to the Law on Political Parties last year preventing naming a party after an individual.
Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Wednesday said that the newly minted party had no links to his movement, nor had it been set up as a proxy party to contest the July national elections. “However, I welcome any support to the CNRP and CNRM in our unwavering fight for a democratic change through real and internationally recognised elections with the participation of the CNRP,” he said in an email.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment on Wednesday and Prak Sam Oeun, director for the Department of Administration, said only that he had heard of the approved party through the media. Kem Ley’s brother Kem Rithisith could not be reached for comment.
Despite the premier’s tagging of the CNRP as a terrorist or rebel group, Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan said Ly was free to express his allegiances as long as he did not participate in the “rebellion”.
“If he said it and then went to do the activities, then he would face the law because we already know that the CNRM is an illegal movement, which we have called an outlawed rebellion,” he said.