Cambodian political exiles launch new movement

A banner of opposition leader and President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party Kem Sokha, who was arrested in September 2017 and is accused of trying to overthrow the government with American help and of espionage.
A banner of opposition leader and President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party Kem Sokha, who was arrested in September 2017 and is accused of trying to overthrow the government with American help and of espionage.PHOTO: REUTERS

PHNOM PENH • Foreign-based members of Cambodia's dissolved opposition party have launched a movement to demand the release of its detained leader and to call for free and fair elections and possibly protests.

The Supreme Court dissolved the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) last November at the request of the government of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen.

CNRP leader Kem Sokha was arrested in September and is accused of trying to overthrow the government with American help and of espionage - charges he denies and says are politically motivated ahead of a general election in July.

Former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy said in a tweet yesterday that the Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM), launched on Saturday, would provide a new structure that nobody can harm or dissolve.

"The CNRM can launch appeals to the people to organise peaceful protests, to workers to go on strike and to the armed forces to side with the people," Mr Sam Rainsy tweeted, along with a statement.

Mr Sam Rainsy, who lives in exile in France, did not say it was calling for any protests at this point. It was not immediately clear how widespread backing for the new movement was among CNRP members.

According to the statement, the CNRM's members include Mr Sam Rainsy, his wife Saumura Tioulong and deputy presidents of the now dissolved CNRP, Mr Eng Chhai Eang and Ms Mu Sochua.

"We invite our compatriots from all walks of life, regardless of their political affiliation, to join the CNRM in order to protect the will of the Cambodian people through free, fair and inclusive elections," said the statement, which also demanded the release of Kem Sokha and other political prisoners of conscience.

Interior Ministry undersecretary of state Huy Vannak called the movement "desperate" and said Mr Sam Rainsy is "a serial loser".

"I advise the people on this list about the spirit of the Cambodian Supreme Court's decision on the prohibition of political rights and to avoid taking illegal or guerilla acts leading to the harm of innocents and the destruction of Cambodians," he said.

The court's decision also banned over 118 CNRP members from politics. One group has called the CNRP's dissolution the death of democracy in the country.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2018, with the headline 'Cambodian political exiles launch new movement'. Print Edition | Subscribe