Ex-CNRP lawmaker forms party

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath speaks at a press conference at Sunway Hotel in 2019. Hong Menea

Former lawmaker of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Ou Chanrath said he was set to submit an application to the Ministry of Interior this week on the formation of a new party to compete in the commune and general elections in 2022 and 2023.

Chanrath said many of the former CNRP members who have been banned from politics after the dissolution will join his proposed Cambodia Reform Party (CNP) once they have received political rehabilitation.

He said the new party name was chosen out of the view that Cambodia still needs to push through much-needed reforms.

“In every country, when it is under one leadership for too long, both political and judicial reforms are warranted. When the society faces many obstacles and problems as it moves forward, reforms are a must.

“The current situation in Cambodia is the result of almost 30 years since the election in 1993, and there are still many problems to address. It’s time to make reforms – in education, the judiciary and other sectors,” he said.

Chanrath said although he is the founder, he will not stand as party president. He noted, however, that the proposed CNP will abruptly disband should former CNRP leaders, either Kem Sokha or Sam Rainsy, return to politics.

He denied that he forms the party in order to get any position, such as within the Supreme Council for Consultation and Recommendations, which was established by Prime Minister Hun Sen following the 2018 general election.

“What is most important is our nation. In 10 to 30 years from now, what will we do to make our next generations capable of leading the country?” he said, adding that only voters will decide if his party is up to the task.

Asked if he will compete in the coming elections, Chanrath said: “Of course, we are preparing and we will get ready to fiercely contest in the elections. In the future, we expect to be a party that challenges the ruling party.”

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said Chanrath’s party name sounds neutral and not intended to attack anyone. Phea agreed that reforms are still needed in the country and that Chanrath’s party could play a significant role.

“But it is too early to assess whether the party will succeed or fail. It is a good move that he can form a field for himself to play in the political arena. It is a sign reflecting political space in Cambodia,” Phea said.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the word reform seemed to have negative connotation nowadays and may not inspire much trust when all successive reforms by the government have been far from impressive.

“The new party’s leadership will have a herculean task to convince people that the devil they have yet to know is indeed better than the devil they have already known,” he said.