Rainsy slammed for ejecting questioner at US public forum

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Sam Rainsy has been criticised for ordering the removal a CNRP supporter from a public forum in San Jose in the US, whom he accused of asking pointless and mocking questions. Hong Menea

SENIOR government officials and analysts have slammed Sam Rainsy for not allowing uncomfortable questions at a recent public forum in the US, considering it a gross violation of democratic policy and freedom of expression, and labelling Rainsy a dictator.

Meanwhile, some US supporters of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), and former party officials expressed disappointment with Rainsy, the party’s “acting president”, saying his conduct is contrary to CNRP policy.

The criticism came after Rainsy ordered his subordinates to remove Chum Socheat – a CNRP team leader in San Jose, California – from the public forum on February 3, accusing him of asking pointless and mocking questions and wasting everyone’s time.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said Rainsy and his group do not respect the will of the people and are dictators who cannot stand critical comments.

“The government never valued them. He is not an individual who loves and respects democracy. We never see them respecting the will of the public who voted for them for many mandates."

“They are a group of selfish people and dictators who never respect the will of others,” he said.

‘Fake democrat’

On Monday, the director-general of the Institute of International Relations at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, Kin Phea, said Rainsy is a “fake democrat” because he does not allow people to ask sensitive questions or express criticism – and that is the opposite of a person who believes in democracy and freedom of expression.

“He [Rainsy] does not welcome views which are opposed to him. He welcomes ideas which are the same as his – so he is not a democrat, but a dictator who wants other people to follow him,” Phea said.

Former CNRP cabinet chief Muth Chantha said Rainsy and his team need to accept and respect the basic rights and freedom of people to hold different ideas, and they need to practice political tolerance in both words and action.

“The foundation of democracy is acceptance and respect of other people. Democracy embraces the right to opposite ideas . . . [It] respects multifaceted opinions and the virtue of dialogue to resolve conflict.

“Political intolerance threatens democracy because it discriminates, opposes and looks to silence the voice of a portion of society. [It] creates a ‘culture of appropriation’ and a ‘closed society’ which narrows people’s political views and limits their behaviour,” he said.

A CNRP-US statement issued on Friday said Rainsy and his group have acted unreasonably by banning Socheat from asking questions and expressing his ideas at the public forum.

“The CNRP supporters in the US call for the group, who have conducted a party coup, led by Sam Rainsy, to stop immediately the biased actions which affect the reputation of the CNRP. We call for supporters and all members to promote and protect freedoms and rights,” the statement said.

Rainsy could not be reached for comment.

Former CNRP deputy president Eng Chhay Eang wrote on his Facebook page on Friday that the “old man – namely Chum Socheat – is good at asking mocking questions”.

He said Socheat had asked similar questions at a previous San Jose forum Chhay Eang attended.

“So, CNRP supporters stopped Chum Socheat asking questions to Sam Rainsy at the event on February 3 in San Jose because they know the questions he asks are useless and mocking,” he said.

The Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) on Monday criticised Rainsy saying he is good at telling lies to grab public attention, but the lies would be useless.

“He [Rainsy] is good at making people interested and believe in him. A proverb states that the more you lie, the more you lose,” a GDP Facebook post said.

GDP deputy director Yang Saing Koma and general secretary and spokesman Sam Inn declined to comment.