Former senior CNRP lawmaker’s return postponed

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Former CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in 2017. Hong Menea

Mu Sochua, former vice-president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has postponed her scheduled return to Cambodia, according to a press release from the disbanded party’s leadership in exile.

Sochua was set to depart the US on January 4 but was obliged to reschedule after cancellation of the flight by Eva Airways.

In a January 2 press release, the former CNRP announced the postponement, saying Sochua and her accompanying delegates would instead depart on January 15 and arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport at 5:35pm on January 17 on Flight SQ5008, barring further cancellations.

Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanroth said Sochua could return to Cambodia despite delays attributable to arranging flights, vaccination or quarantine.

“I believe that perhaps she might get vaccinated, and I seriously believe that Her Excellency [Sochua] might return to Cambodia because she has repeatedly committed to doing so. If she returns, I will support her to achieve a political solution.

“However, if she cannot return, I will continue taking the stance of establishing a new party,” he said.

Former CNRP activist Hun Kosal expressed pleasure and support for Sochua’s planned return to Cambodia with her delegation, though he did not believe the former CNRP leaders would be able to abide by their assurances to return at this time.

“I have no faith in her commitment because we all remember November 9, 2019, when Sam Rainsy and Mu Sochua herself announced their commitment to returning to Cambodia even more vehemently than this recently postponed January 4 return. But the planned returns suffered humiliating failure,” he said.

Kosal added that the alleged justification for Sochua’s postponing her return was not reasonable. Many other air carriers also regularly travel to Cambodia, he noted.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun expressed the view that Sochua’s return would constitute a statement demanding the rights and political freedom. He noted that her ambition to resurrect her party was problematic.

“Her plan to return to Cambodia is not easy because it is fraught with political and technical challenges, especially air travel restrictions. There are not so many flights, and she faces health risks posed by Covid-19,” he said.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director for rights group Licadho, said that as a member of a civil society organisation, he wanted all politicians to act in the best interests of the nation and the people. It would be best if they could negotiate and solve problems without threats or force.

“I think that politicians should engage in negotiations and discussions by peaceful means to seek solutions that end these problems because, so far, those who have suffered have been supporters and innocent people who were used as political tools,” he said.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan said the government did not grant passports to members of outlawed organisations.

He said that after the CNRP was dissolved, rebels resorted to establishing their illegal organisation abroad in order to attack, condemn, incite and destroy the interests of the nation and the people. Therefore, their activities were unacceptable to the government.

“The legitimate government does not acknowledge their position as legal. Hence, the government cannot issue passports to them, either. The granting of passports is only for legal citizens. When the outlawed rebels arrive in Cambodia, they will be held accountable under national law,” he said.