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Sam Rainsy Party boss fires salvo on exit

President of the Sam Rainsy Party and head of the Senate’s Human Rights Commission Kong Korm gestures during a press conference in Phnom Penh in 2009.
President of the Sam Rainsy Party and head of the Senate’s Human Rights Commission Kong Korm gestures during a press conference in Phnom Penh in 2009. Heng Chivoan

Sam Rainsy Party boss fires salvo on exit

Retiring Sam Rainsy Party president Kong Korm, a former foreign minister, has gone out swinging, accusing the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of allowing “the rich and powerful” to pilfer the Kingdom’s forests and grab land from its citizens.

Korm, who started his career with the ruling party in 1979, took to Facebook to offer some final thoughts on the state of the country after his more than three decades in politics.

“The richness of [the country’s] forestry and natural resources is being destroyed and will be endangered if the selling country [Cambodia] and the buying country consider only their personal benefit,” wrote Korm, without elaborating on “the buying country”.

The 75-year-old said there would be “no end” to ongoing land disputes involving the rich seizing the property of villagers without a change to the country’s land policy.

Korm, whose Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker son Kong Sakphea was one of two MPs attacked outside parliament after pro-ruling party protests last week, added he had retired because of “health and old age”, but also as the party marked its 20th anniversary.

Most recently the chairman of the Senate’s commission on human rights, investigations and complaints, Korm was among members of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, the regime of largely ex-Khmer Rouge cadre that toppled Pol Pot in 1979 backed by the Vietnamese military.

He was appointed ambassador to Vietnam from 1981-82, then minister of foreign affairs from 1986-88.

However, according to a previous interview he gave the Post, Korm said his “aggressive” stance against Vietnam saw him face political challenges, leading to his resignation in 1992, a year before the UN-organised elections.

He returned to politics again in 1995, but this time in opposition, joining Sam Rainsy’s Khmer Nation Party and becoming a member of the Senate in 1999.

Korm took over the presidency of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) after its merger with the Human Rights Party in 2012 formed the Cambodia National Rescue Party, but left the SRP with seats in the Senate and in local government.

Senate spokesman and CPP Senator Mam Bun Neang yesterday confirmed Korm’s retirement and said he had yet to receive a request by the SRP to fill the seat.

Korm was unavailable for comment yesterday, having gone to visit his son in Thailand, where he is recovering after the attack.

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