Kem Sokha faction slams Sam Rainsy nomination as ‘party coup’

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Kem Sokha was at the former CNRP office. Hong Menea

Pros-sokha leaders of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), including one of his daughters, have slammed the decision of the party’s international conference last weekend to nominate Rainsy as its “acting president”, denouncing the move as a “party coup”.

However, the CNRP’s pro-Rainsy faction rejected the accusation, claiming that the pro-Sokha camp was attempting to “split the party”. They hailed the decision as a strategy to “resurrect” the court-dissolved opposition.

The conflict between the party’s pro-Sokha and pro-Rainsy leadership came after the latter was nominated “acting president” at the conference while Sokha awaits trial on treason charges.

Sam Rainsy is the president of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM), which he founded in January following the dissolution of the CNRP by the Supreme Court in November last year,

Kem Sokha is currently residing at his home on court-supervised bail, causing Rainsy to justify his nomination by claiming his fellow CNRP co-founder was being “held hostage” by Prime Minister Hun Sen and so could “reflect his true will only when he recovers full freedom”.

The international CNRP conference was held last weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, the US, and while much of the party’s global leadership took part, pro-Sokha leaders boycotted the event.

Former CNRP lawmaker Mao Monyvann said from abroad on Thursday that he would not recognise Rainsy’s nomination as acting president because it violated the party’s bylaws.

“Each party has laws, bylaws and internal regulations, and everything has to be done in accordance with these. I will not support this violation [of CNRP bylaws]."

“We can consider it [as such] because as in a country, when we have a constitution and we do not respect it, it is called a constitutional coup. So if we do not respect the party’s bylaws, it is called a party coup."

“I believe that for [those who nominated Rainsy] if they say they have read the CNRP’s internal regulations and bylaws then all of them have violated the rules, so we cannot [accept the nomination]. In a country, we need to respect its laws and the constitution, and likewise in a party, we have to respect its bylaws and internal regulations,” he said.

Kem Monovithya, Sokha’s eldest daughter and the former public affairs deputy director of the CNRP, expressed her disappointment with Rainsy’s nomination in an interview with Radio France International on Wednesday.

“We are surprised and deeply saddened. We are not sad about the nomination, but we are sad that the procedures which led to it did not respect the laws of the CNRP,” she said.

She also said she considered the move a “party coup”.

“It is clear that when there is a change of leadership in an institution without it following the rules – with the state it is called a coup d’etat and with a [political] party it is called a [party coup]. We are sad because they did not follow the party’s bylaws,” she said.

However, Hay Vanna, the head of the CNRM in Japan, rejected the idea that Rainsy’s nomination amounted to a “party coup”, calling it “ridiculous”.

“I think [Rainsy’s] return to lead the CNRP as its acting president is designed to set out strategies for the implementation of [the party’s] actions in demanding the release of Kem Sokha, the resurrection of the CNRP and the holding of [fresh] elections.

“These are obligations, and they are the obligations and responsibility of Sam Rainsy, the party’s founder,” he claimed.

Vanna claimed he could not accept attempts to “split the party” by some CNRP members who did not support the conference’s decision, and that those who aimed to “split” the CNRP should no longer be recognised.

“They need to leave the CNRP”, he said. As the CNRP is dissolved relating to the law in Cambodia, party [rules] cannot be implemented fully.”

However, he said the spirit of the CNRP has not died, and the party has not left “Cambodians’ hearts”. Consequently, people wanted to see unity in the party and would hate to see attempts to split the opposition.

“I would like to tell Cambodian CNRP supporters to not pay attention to the people attempting to break up the CNRP because Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy are the same person. If Kem Sokha were to be released and . . . stopped uniting with Sam Rainsy, we could then consider the CNRP as broken, but at the moment it is intact,” he claimed.