Opposition figure Eng Chhay Eang urged supporters on Sunday to speak with “one voice” and focus on what he described as their common enemy: Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“You must be clear all together that Hun Sen dissolved the CNRP because Hun Sen already knew that if there was the CNRP in the next election, he would lose,” Chhay Eang said in a Facebook Live address from Washington state in the United States. Tacoma, the third largest city in Washington, has a sizable Cambodian population.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party, the country’s only viable opposition, was dissolved in November on widely dismissed accusations of plotting a “revolution”. Then-President Kem Sokha was arrested on similarly decried charges of “treason” in September, while original party President Sam Rainsy has been abroad to avoid prison since 2015.
Chhay Eang, a CNRP vice president at the time of the party’s dissolution, continued that the party’s supporters should avoid blaming each other.
“They said Hun Sen dissolved CNRP because Kem Sokha did not resign as party president. Some others said Hun Sen dissolved CNRP because Sam Rainsy was mocking him,” Chhay Eang said, rejecting both of these perspectives.
“We must use only one voice,” Chhay Eang urged, accusing Hun Sen of using a “dictator’s power” to ensure his electoral victory.
The CNRP was originally formed by a merger between Rainsy’s Sam Rainsy Party and Sokha’s Human Rights Party. A schism between the two branches always existed, but has appeared to widen during the political crackdown.
Sokha’s supporters were particularly critical of Rainsy and Chhay Eang’s decision to form the Cambodia National Rescue Movement, which has lobbied foreign governments to intervene in Cambodia’s worsening political situation and has toyed with the idea of calling for mass protests.
Chhay Eang, a former SRP member and founding member of the CNRM, encouraged listeners to explain the situation to other supporters causing divisions within the party on social media. If conversation fails, however, he said troublemakers should be blocked or unfriended.
He also warned Hun Sen that any elections without the CNRP would not be recognised by the international community and would further isolate the country.
“For the CNRP side, we do not want our Cambodia to be lonely, we do not want our Khmer people to become victims because of a political crisis,” he said. “We suggest a negotiation between each other like the international community wants.”
Former CNRP lawmaker Mao Monyvann, who came to the party from the HRP, agreed that the opposition needed to be united, but said they should unite within the country.
“I think they must act to serve the will of the people through struggle in the Kingdom . . . If you flee the country, I don’t think you can do anything,” he said.
Updated: 7:54am, Tuesday March 3, 2018