Kong Korm, one of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party’s top advisers, on Thursday criticised his former colleague Sam Rainsy for calling on voters to boycott the July 29 national elections. He said the people should honour the King and head to the polls.
Korm, who has been banned from political activities for five years by the court, after the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved, has a colourful history in the Kingdom’s political arena.
Serving as a senior officer and foreign minister for the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) in the 1980s before joining the opposition in the 1990s, he is the father of Kong Monika, president of the Khmer Will Party (KWP).
The party, founded by Korm’s youngest son in April, was in the spotlight this week after it said 60 percent of the candidates it was fielding in the elections were former members of the CNRP.
Seventy-seven-year-old Korm served as acting president of the Sam Rainsy Party before it joined forces with Kem Sokha’s Human Rights Party to form the CNRP, which was, until its dissolution, said to be the only viable opposition to Hun Sen’s ruling CPP.
However, Korm said he doesn’t have any official role in the KWP and that he is just the “elder in the family” who gives advice to his children, all of whom are career politicians.
From his home in the capital, he mocked the call for voters to stay home on ballot day and said the boycott campaign was not, as many claimed online, “sleep home, win cleanly”, but rather, “sleep home, CPP win cleanly”.
“If we sleep, the CPP wins pretty well,” he said.
Korm referred to Rainsy as “the king of firecrackers” and said any fight going on outside the country’s borders should be seen as “secondary”, and that only battles within the Kingdom would bring positive results.
“Sam Rainsy is the king of firecrackers, from one election period to another . . . He never stays in the country. ”
Pointing to the strong numbers the Sam Rainsy Party put up in the 1998 national elections, and the number of votes the Human Right’s Party received in 2008, Korm is optimistic for what the KWP can deliver this year.
“Therefore, if the KWP gets more than three seats, it beats the Human Rights Party which first got only three seats. And if the KWP gets over 15 seats, it beats the Sam Rainsy Party which first got only 15 seats. We need to think like this,” he said.
Asked why he was bothered about national politics when he could be enjoying his retirement, Korm said: “We should not keep a dictator . . . We need to have a new start.”
He also thanked Japan for assisting in the election process, but warned against making any premature judgments, saying that elections are never free or fair.
Ex-CNRP lawmaker Mao Monyvan said he does not support any move to create new parties which he called a betrayal of the people’s will. “We should unite. It is not right to act against the people’s will.”
He continued that no new party can replace the former CNRP, despite the KWP having local officials to run for positions as lawmakers.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said: “One side’s appeal tells people to go and vote, while the other side tells the people not to.
“[Both sides] are now turning the coming election into a plebiscite, not a national assembly election. This plebiscite engages the fate of the monarchy and that of the regime. A low turnout will mean less popular support for both of them.”