The embattled Cambodia National Rescue Party held two events with party supporters yesterday, organising a religious ceremony in Siem Reap and meeting with CNRP youth in the capital.
The events came two days after opposition leader Kem Sokha met with a delegation from the EU, which has been the most outspoken international critic of the ongoing scandal surrounding the deputy party president, calling it “judicial harassment”.
Speaking to close to 200 youth supporters from the provinces at CNRP headquarters, party lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang again accused the Cambodian People’s Party of paving the way for abuse of the constitution by allowing court proceedings against Kem Sokha and the jailing of opposition lawmakers Um Sam An and Hong Sok Hour. “All these point to a political [motive],” he said. “The best way for resolution is to talk.”
He also questioned the 20-year sentence handed out to party activist Meach Sovannara for his alleged role in a protest turned violent at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park in 2014, comparing it to the one-year sentences given to three members of the prime minister’s Bodyguard Unit for beating up two lawmakers outside the National Assembly last year. “Can we accept this? How can we?” Chhay Eang said.
Sokha has been holed up at the CNRP headquarters since an attempt by police to arrest him on May 26 following his refusal to honour multiple court summonses. The summonses stemmed from questionable court cases surrounding an alleged sex scandal that have also seen four rights workers, an election official and a local opposition official jailed.
In Siem Reap yesterday, party lawmakers and supporters conducted a religious ceremony near Angkor Wat, praying for national reconciliation and respect of parliamentary immunity.
Speaking to reporters, CNRP lawmaker Pol Ham said the ceremony was held so that the two major national parties could find a solution to the current political deadlock.
“Between Khmer and Khmer, we have had many times of conflict – war and political – and we could resolve them,” Ham said. “When we see a problem we find the medicine, and we work together to pave the way to have free, fair and just elections.”
On Friday, EU Ambassador George Edgar met with Sokha, with the besieged opposition leader reportedly informing the ambassador about the current political crisis. The EU delegation in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Meanwhile, social media darling Thy Sovantha – who sued Sokha after being mentioned in the leaked phone recordings that first gave rise to the scandal – held a forum on Saturday, ostensibly about “Citizen’s Rights and Community Development”, where she heavily criticised the CNRP, singling out Sokha. “Don’t vote for Kem Sokha; if Kem Sokha leads the CNRP, don’t vote for the CNRP,” said Sovantha, who runs an NGO called Youthful Social Affairs.
Yesterday, she said she had the right to convene such public forums under the auspices of the NGO, which has taken up the cause of orphans, even if she did use them to make political statements. “I am an NGO official and have the right to criticise all politicians,” she said. “The law does not forbid me from criticising politicians.”
Under the Kingdom’s controversial new NGO Law, organisations are required to maintain strict political neutrality. Chhim Kan, an Interior Ministry official responsible for NGO registrations, said the ministry would take action only if there was a complaint.