Cambodian Opposition Leader Expresses 'Deep Regret' Over Renegade Facebook Post

cambodia-sam-rainsy-rfa-may-2015-1000.jpg Sam Rainsy speaks with RFA in Washington, May 14, 2015.

Cambodian opposition party chief Sam Rainsy on Tuesday expressed regret to Prime Minister Hun Sen for an incident involving a former Cambodia National Rescue Party member who posted salacious accusations about the prime minister’s family on Facebook.

“In the name of the Cambodian National Rescue Party and in my own name, we would like to express deep regret over the action of those who had used indignity, humiliation, and allegation against Samdech [Hun Sen] and the son of [Hun Sen's wife] Samdech Kittipritbandit Bun Rany Hun Sen, causing Samdech and his family pain,” Sam Rainsy wrote in a June 14 letter obtained by RFA’s Khmer Service.

Samdech and Kittipritbandit are honorary titles in Cambodia that confer respect. Roughly translated, Samdech means “lord,” and Kittipritbandit is equivalent to an honorary doctorate.

Brady Young, a Cambodian-American living in United States, had posted consecutive video clips on his Facebook page in April that included accusations against Hun Sen’s elder son, Hun Manet.

After the posts appeared, Hun Sen accused the CNRP of secretly engineering the effort and warned that he would not let the CNRP rest in peace, despite an immediate statement from the opposition party disowning the comments.

On May 16, the CNRP dismissed Brady Young from the party.

Speaking at the Royal University of Phnom Penh on June 13th, Hun Sen reiterated his warnings to the CNRP.

“If you hit my head and then ask me to fetch water for you to drink, do not expect that is going to happen,” he said. “You must really make this right for Hun Sen and Hun Sen’s family. You must listen to this clearly.”

High tension

Sam Rainsy’s note comes as tensions between Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the CNRP are running high.

Authorities have arrested CNRP lawmakers and rights workers, and the CPP has sued a prominent NGO leader and critic of the government as prosecutors pursue a high-profile case involving CNRP deputy leader Kem Sokha’s alleged affair with a young hairdresser.

CNRP President Sam Rainsy has been staying in France or traveling since an arrest warrant was issued for him in November for a 2008 defamation case. At the time, he was removed from his office and stripped of his parliamentary immunity. After Sam Rainsy left the country, the CNRP named Kem Sokha its acting president.

Authorities are also making it difficult for CNRP supporters to travel and collect thumbprints on petitions asking King Norodom Sihamoni to intervene in the political crisis that has seen heavily armed police attempt to arrest Kem Sokha at CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh.

CNRP supporters in the Me Sang district, Prey Veng province, were banned by authorities from traveling to join a gathering at the party headquarters in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, RFA has learned. Thumbprints often serve as signatures in Cambodia.

Chharn Sophate, the CNRP’s commune council member of the Prey Khneas commune, told RFA that six police officers stopped his group from going to Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

'They stopped us'

“They stopped us, and then they sent us to the police station to sign an agreement, but I said: ‘What is the issue that requires me to go there?’  So I refused to go,’” he said.

"If they want to arrest me, let them do so because I did nothing wrong," he said.

Prey Khneas commune chief Em Seab told RFA that he was implementing the plans of his superiors.

“This plan was issued by the higher-ups to ban them from going,” he said.

Prey Veng provincial commissioner Sreng Chea denied that he had issued any orders that would prevent locals from traveling to Phnom Penh.

“I did not place the order to stop them,” he said.

In Stung Treng province, CNRP province chief Puy Chanthala told RFA that provincial authorities have detained seven party activists since June 7. Authorities forced them to stop collecting thumbprints and made them sign an agreement to end their activities, he said.

“They said that we must get their permission to collect thumbprints,” he told RFA. “This is wrong.”

On June 12, authorities in Stung Treng province threatened CNRP supporters for providing thumbprints, according to an opposition party official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official told RFA that 100 villagers were called in for a meeting by Kbal Romeas commune authorities in Se San district and were threatened with jail time unless they withdrew their thumbprints.

Voeun Sambath, Kbal Romeas commune chief and CPP member, admitted that there a meeting had been held to educate villagers about the thumbprint issue, but he denied issuing any threats against locals.

Suon Bunsak, executive director of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Coalition (CHRAC), told RFA that shifting the blame from one set of authorities to another is a pretext to avoid accountability.

Stopping people from going to Phnom Penh is clearly a violation of the rights of citizens rights stated in the constitution.

“The government has an important duty to facilitate every citizen’s ability to exercise their rights,” he said. “I would like to appeal to the government to kindly implement its duty though mediation so every Cambodian can exercise his rights freely in accordance with Cambodia’s legal framework.”

CNRP supporters gather

While authorities were attempting to keep CNRP supporters bottled up, about 2,000 supporters from dozens of cities and provinces still managed to gather at the party’s headquarters.

A line of supporters stretched for about one kilometer (0.62 mile) along Highway No. 2 where security forces packing firearms, electric batons, and shields were deployed, and iron barricades were blocking the road.

CNRP officials said they were not preparing for a demonstration, but wanted to monitor the political situation related to the court cases surrounding Kem Sokha as the embattled CNRP leader declined to appear in court once again.

Police attempted to arrest Kem Sokha on May 26 for failing to appear for questioning about the sex scandal the government has been prosecuting against him since March. He has since been hiding out in the CNRP’s headquarters in Phnom Penh.

Reported by RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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