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Sonando revives party

Mam Sonando greets thousands of CNRP supporters at Freedom Park on the arrival of Sam Rainsy in July 2013
Mam Sonando greets thousands of CNRP supporters at Freedom Park on the arrival of Sam Rainsy in July 2013. Charlotte Pert

Sonando revives party

Beehive Radio director Mam Sonando has announced he will resuscitate his failed Beehive Social Democratic Party to contest the 2018 election after taking a hardline stance against the opposition’s recent détente with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Sonando yesterday heaped criticism on the two opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders, president Sam Rainsy and deputy president Kem Sokha, lambasting them for accepting “worthless” titles as part of a political deal that ended an almost yearlong boycott of parliament after the 2013 general election.

“I know very well the bad behaviour of Cambodian politicians. I have voted for the Cambodia National Rescue Party, but it does not have the capacity to lead. I have lost confidence [in the CNRP] completely,” he said.

He added that Rainsy and Sokha’s decision to join the National Assembly with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in August last year had been the last straw, and went on to mock the CNRP leaders for accepting parliamentary roles that were only symbolic.

“They are worthless titles that [Rainsy] has accepted. I do not support this decision. The one who holds power [Hun Sen] is not independent and the opposition is in a mess.”

Sonando was a regular fixture at opposition-led street protests after the disputed 2013 election, and often voiced support on his station for the demonstrations, which were routinely met with violence from security forces.

In April last year, a rally in support of Beehive’s bid for a television licence led to several injuries as Daun Penh district security guards attacked rally-goers amid a haphazardly enforced ban on public gatherings.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann yesterday dismissed Sonando’s comments, adding that the parties’ “culture of dialogue” had widespread support among the CNRP faithful.

“Rainsy’s efforts have led to a change in the [National Election Committee], a change from having no independent media to having some, and reforms in other institutions,” he said referring to the granting of a television licence to the CNRP in December. “[Rainsy] has never negotiated with Prime Minister Hun Sen in his own personal interests, ever. He [has] always negotiated in the national interest.”

He said the CNRP was “not worried at all” by Sonando’s party, “because people have common sense. People are only interested in the Cambodia National Rescue Party.”

Rainsy was curter in his response to Sonando’s announcement. “I have no comment on this non-event,” he said.

Speaking to supporters in Banteay Meanchey province yesterday, Sokha, who has always posed as the firebrand of the two CNRP leaders, lashed out at the CPP with Rainsy watching on.

“Even an old ox cart and plough that has been long used and is shoddy and damaged can be fixed and used again. But the CPP cannot be mended,” he said.

CPP spokesman Suos Yara dismissed Sonando’s criticism as par for the course, but cautioned Sokha against using such rhetoric amid a climate of cooperation.

“[Sokha] can talk like this but he should reserve such speech for an election campaign. He should not speak like this in his capacity as first deputy president of the National Assembly.”

He added that if Sokha continued to criticise the CPP the party would take “measures” against him, but he would not elaborate on what that might involve.

Chea Vannath, an independent analyst, said it would be a struggle for Sonando’s reformed party to gain much traction in the next election because it lacked the national networks and infrastructure of the two main parties.

“Yes, some [CNRP supporters] might shift to support Sonando. But the question is will he have enough votes to have a seat. He might divide the vote from [the CNRP], but whether they have a critical mass to get a seat in the National Assembly is a different story.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DANIEL PYE

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