Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy announced yesterday that he plans to create a France-based NGO called the Association for Democracy in Cambodia, though he declined to give a detailed account of the structure and goals of the organisation.
“I believe it is my duty . . . to rally Cambodians towards the goal of national unity based on democracy,” Rainsy wrote in a Facebook statement yesterday.
He said the association would be nonpartisan, and encouraged other Cambodians to become members.
“All those who want to join the Association can keep their existing political affiliation as our Association will not support, or oppose any political party,” he wrote in the statement.
In an email, Rainsy called the association “a legal organisation under French law that will conduct legal and peaceful activities to promote democracy in Cambodia”, though he declined to explain how it would do so.
Asked if the organisation would be allowed to do work in the Kingdom, Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak pointed to Rainsy’s criminal convictions.
“He has to be in the prison first . . . Cambodia, we no longer accept Sam Rainsy,” he said.
As for whether other Cambodian institutions or individuals could partner with the association, Sopheak said: “Let them do that and we will see.”
The former Cambodia National Rescue Party head also gave his thoughts on the recent arrest of his successor, current party President Kem Sokha, in an interview with the television network France24 on Saturday.
“What happened in Cambodia in the last few days is a coup. Not a military coup . . . but it’s a constitutional coup,” he said of the arrest.
In the interview, Rainsy appealed for help from the international community, while claiming the “vast majority of the population” now opposes Hun Sen. He also addressed the possibility of protests in response to the arrest, saying “anything is possible”.
“Hun Sen has gone too far, and he does not leave any opportunity, democratic opportunity, peaceful opportunity, for the people to express their view and bring about a change,” he said.
Asked if he was advocating protests, Rainsy instructed the population to “be patient”, and to first wait for an international response.
CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua has strenuously denied that the opposition will organise any protests, but yesterday qualified her stance, saying only that there would be no protests “for the moment”.