Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy continued to rail on Tuesday against minor parties participating in the upcoming July elections, with the leader of one such party, the son of a former CNRP official, suggesting it may be time for Rainsy to pass the baton.
With the Cambodia National Rescue Party dissolved, Rainsy has called for boycotts on behalf of the opposition, though some senior officials have challenged his authority to speak for what remains of the party. Meanwhile, a handful of parties affiliated with the former CNRP have sprung up to challenge the elections.
“I compare the party which has been pushed to join the fake election to an ahp party,” Rainsy said in an interview with Radio Free Asia, referring to a type of spirit with a head but no body.
One of these is the Khmer Will Party, which was founded by Kong Monika, son of high-ranking former opposition official Kong Korm. Social media activist William Guang, a vocal government critic, also established the Khmer Rise Party, with authorities apparently ignoring a lingering lawsuit for incitement and defamation.
“They were warned, threatened, and forced to create a new party to show the CNRP was broken,” Rainsy said of the new hopefuls on RFA, while contending that the CNRP would return to the political stage.
Monika, however, dismissed Rainsy’s criticism in an interview on Tuesday, saying his party represents the “soul” of the CNRP.
Registration for July’s elections began on Monday, with the CPP and the Cambodian Youth Party signing up that day. The National Election Committee reported that the Cambodia Nationality Party registered on Tuesday, while 16 others requested forms. Registration will last until May 14.
Monika defended his decision to enter the political fray regardless of the CNRP’s forced demise.
“We have our political right to serve the nation. I am the one who was born by the blood of the democrats,” Monika said, adding he doubts the CNRP will ever return, to which Rainsy responded with one word in an email: “Ridiculous!”
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said he supported Monika’s desire to start a new party.
“He just implemented his political rights. No one has the right to violate his political right to create a new party to join on the democratic stage,” Eysan said, accusing Rainsy of excessive pride.
He repeated comments that Hun Sen made on Tuesday, stressing that the CNRP has been “cremated” and is now a “ghost”.
On Tuesday, Rainsy seemed to stir the pot further, sharing a leaflet calling for boycotts. “There are only two real choices,” the leaflet reads.
“Not go to vote means that you support the CNRP in your heads . . . go to vote (for whatever party) means that you support the CPP,” it continues.
Passing out leaflets has been met with swift legal action in the past, including for CNRP activists accused of “incitement”, as well as members of the Khmer National Liberation Front, who were accused of attempting to topple the government after distributing flyers.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak was coy about whether similar action would be taken if in-country opposition supporters spread such a message.
“If we say we are going to take action now, they will say we are threatening them,” he said. “What you plan, you will receive the result.”