Supporters of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president, Kem Sokha, and his daughter, Kem Monovitya, were on Wednesday urged to the seize a “golden opportunity” to request political rehabilitation.
In the meantime, one of the remaining 114 banned officials said there would soon be large-scale requests made for it.
Ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan said on Wednesday that Sokha’s supporters should make such a request because he and CNRP co-founder Sam Rainsy were – to use a party slogan – not ‘as one person’ anymore, and that Rainsy had “stepped on Sokha while he was in deep water”.
“Now is a golden opportunity for Kem Sokha supporters – especially his daughter – and they should not delay any longer. If they hesitate and wait to see how the situation unfolds, they will be wasting time and the opportunity."
“So if you all understand the poisonous tricks of the fugitive convict [Rainsy], you should [request rehabilitation] quickly to act against the convict’s group, for the sake of Kem Sokha and his supporters,” he said.
Eysan said what Sokha’s supporters should do to push towards a new political situation that benefits him, is to find a way to protect the welfare of workers by preventing the EU and the US from suspending Cambodia’s access to their respective preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) and Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) agreements.
“Supporters of Kem Sokha should not prepare a barrel for the rain to come during the dry season. If you don’t dig a canal, you won’t have water for cultivation – please be informed,” Eysan said.
He said Rainsy and Sokha were not as one anymore because one was on conditional bail, and the other was “travelling abroad and skiing” in France.
Eysan repeated Hun Sen’s words that the door for rehabilitation could soon be shut and their chance to return to politics would be gone.
Kong Korm, a former CNRP adviser and current honorary president of the Khmer Will Party, also encouraged the banned officials to request rehabilitation and ignore Rainsy’s accusations of them betraying the party and the people.
He said Rainsy had caused a split in Cambodian politics by seeking to prevent CNRP officials from requesting rehabilitation, for calling for Hun Sen’s arrest and by appealing to the military to disobey the prime minister’s orders.
“He has broken up the internal CNRP structure and is attempting to do the same with the government with his ambition. But his ambition makes him more isolated. He is like a chicken that teaches baby ducks in the water to swim."
“I think just as a chicken cannot control baby ducks, so CNRP members, government leaders and the people won’t be fooled by his incitement,” he said.
He said it was now time for Sokha and his supporters to follow their conscience and resume their political careers.
He said the CNRP slogan of unity “Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy are as one person” were just hollow words as in reality they were long split.
‘They should be thanked’
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said he respected those who had already received political rehabilitation and told critics not to insult them.
“Those who have already been rehabilitated have been with the opposition for up to 20 years. They have devoted time and money, and physical and mental effort to support the [CNRP].
“They should be thanked, not insulted. Some of those doing the insulting have not done anything,” he said.
Chanrath said he was still calling for the Ministry of Interior to prepare a list of banned officials so a request for royal pardons could be done as a group.
A banned CNRP official who asked not to be named said on Wednesday that a large number of banned officials were preparing documents to make a request for rehabilitation.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Phat Sophanit said there had yet to be further requests for rehabilitation submitted as of Wednesday.
Political analyst Em Sovannara said Eysan’s encouragement to the banned CNRP officials could push the fragile former opposition party deeper into turmoil.
‘They need their supporters’
He said those who had made a rehabilitation request would not be welcomed by CNRP supporters and that meant a victory for the ruling CPP.
“All politicians and parties need their supporters. The CNRP won the hearts of their supporters because they represented what [the supporters] wanted. If the CNRP doesn’t respect the hearts of their supporters, it means people will stop supporting them,” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Hun Sen’s recent threat to close the door to rehabilitation and Eysan’s Wednesday statement were part of a “carrot and stick” strategy to get banned CNRP officials rushing for what they had almost all so far rejected.
“The prime minister recently wielded a big stick in the form of the threat to discontinue rehabilitation, while Eysan is offering a carrot in hinting that it would help Kem Sokha. This aims to first lure them into receiving rehabilitation and second to part company with Rainsy.
“It is still highly doubtful if anyone else will be tempted, knowing full well that the clock on EBA and GPS withdrawal is ticking away fast for the government.”
Monovitya and one of the banned CNRP officials could not be reached for comment by The Post on Wednesday.