GDP pledges to have Kem Sokha released

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The Grassroots Democratic Party launched its election campaign in earnest on Tuesday in the capital . Pha Lina

The Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) held its first major rally of the campaign period in the capital on Tuesday while pushing a platform that included a promise to eliminate treason charges from the Criminal Code.

Responding to the pledge, ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesperson Sok Eysan, called the GDP leader a “demagogue” and said it is his political right to make his promises.

“He can campaign on his policies. If he thinks that Cambodia’s criminal codes are too strong for treason . . . It’s up to him,” he said.

The GDP’s parade began at their Sen Sok district headquarters on Tuesday and travelled 25km before ending at Wat Chas pagoda in Chroy Changvar district.

Many of the party’s supporters have pointed to the group’s composition of civil society leaders as a cause for their allegiance.

Approximately 1,000 supporters participated in the rally, which stopped to take part in a flower ceremony at a Caltex station, where supporters of the late political analyst Kem Ley were marking the second anniversary of his death. The two groups then converged and continued the procession.

Yang Siang Koma, the GDP’s prime ministerial candidate spoke to the crowd, saying that he would amend the Kingdom’s laws to eliminate “treason” offences from the Criminal Code. He claimed the charge was being used as a tool against opposition politicians.

Before reaching the Caltex station in Chamkarmon district, Saing Koma criticised police for being uncooperative with his party’s parade, comparing it to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP rally which he claimed was assisted by police.

“When the GDP organised this rally, we didn’t see policemen help with maintaining social order, but when the other party [CPP] hosts a rally, there will be policemen assisting. It’s very unjust."

“This election is not good. Maybe we could withdraw from the unjust and bad election. This election is very bad. There is political discrimination. Where is the free and fair election?” he asked.

Saing Koma also called on people to vote for the GDP, claiming his party is the “new seven” – a reference to the place on the ballot previously occupied by the CNRP.

“New lawmakers bring in a new political culture, a new prime minister, and new policies. The GDP thinks about quality, while the ruling party only thinks about quantity,” Saing Koma said.

Responding to this, Eysan said: “If people support him, it’s up to them. However, I don’t believe that people will fall for such as demagogue policy like that. No country allows treason,” he said.

Eysan said based on Hun Sen’s speech, there is no political discrimination in the election campaign. He said the ruling party’s rallies have tens of thousands of supporters, so they needed police to properly facilitate them.

It’s just the opposite with the other parties … they have fewer supporters and don’t require a police presence, he said.

Political analyst Meas Ny said he believes the elimination of articles in the criminal code is less important to the strengthening of the judicial system to ensure laws are implemented correctly.