Interview: 'We Are Not Opting Out of The Election'

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Jailed CNRP leader Kem Sokha's daughter Kem Monovithya is shown in a screen grab from a Sept. 11, 2017 interview on Skype.
Jailed CNRP leader Kem Sokha's daughter Kem Monovithya is shown in a screen grab from a Sept. 11, 2017 interview on Skype.

Kem Monovithya, daughter of jailed CNRP leader Kem Sokha, tells reporter Nareth Muon of RFA's Khmer Service in a Sept. 11, 2017 interview that Cambodians should continue to register to vote in next year's national election, adding that the country's political opposition should stay strong and that her father could still be released.

RFA: Many Cambodians are concerned over the current political situation, which could now lead to the dissolution of the CNRP. Some have already posted on their Facebook that they will not go to vote during the next national election if the CNRP is dissolved. People are now less encouraged about registering to vote given this situation. What is your reaction to this?

Kem Monovithya: We have not opted out of the national election yet. We are demanding Kem Sokha’s immediate release. We are fighting for a free and fair election. If people do not go to register to vote now, it will be too late to register when the political situation has been resolved and Kem Sokha is released. Cambodians would then lose a chance to help the CNRP win the next election.

RFA: Kem Sokha has been charged with treason, but he remains innocent until the courts rule otherwise. However, the presumption of innocence is being breached when Hun Sen and his officials continue to address Kem Sokha as a traitor. This is a serious matter. How optimistic are you that Kem Sokha will be released to lead the CNRP again?

Kem Monovithya: This gross action by the government in arresting Kem Sokha is an act of intimidation intended to traumatize Cambodians. But we shouldn’t be intimidated. I believe they cannot dissolve the CNRP. If they wanted to dissolve it, they could have done that a long time ago. They don’t even need to arrest Kem Sokha to dissolve the CNRP. In the way they arrested him, and the way they posted the video of his arrest, they are trying to inflict fear and a state of uncertainty among Cambodians and the CNRP leadership. People may now be frightened to engage in politics. People may be discouraged from registering to vote. And then the CPP will win. We have to stay strong and united. We cannot be intimidated or demoralized. The CPP is testing the water to see how the CNRP’s supporters and the international community will react.  

RFA:  Several radio stations, including that ones that broadcast the CNRP’s messages to their constituents, have been banned. Local meetings with CNRP supporters in some places have also been restricted. How will the CNRP communicate with them now?

Kem Monovithya: The CNRP has local officials and activists who have their own means of communicating [Party] messages to them.

RFA:  the Cambodian government is showing more hostility towards the U.S., with Hun Sen accusing the U.S. of working with Kem Sokha to topple the government. The Cambodian diaspora has been protesting against the Cambodian government in relation to Kem Sokha's arrest. They want him to be released. However, the government has linked those protesters to the CNRP’s supporters, and Hun Sen has warned people to not interfere in Kem Sokha’s arrest or the CNRP will be dissolved and more people will be arrested. Is international pressure or protest really helpful?

Kem Monovithya: I would like to ask our people to not be fooled by the government's rhetoric. It’s really ironic that the government of Cambodia has not kicked out the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh, given their accusation that the U.S. is conspiring with Kem Sokha. Why is the harassment being inflicted only upon Cambodian politicians who believe in free and fair elections to bring change? The government claims that it has all the facts and evidence against the U.S. that it needs. I challenge it to file charges against the U.S. Why has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not issued an official statement warning the U.S.? Their failure to do this proves that such accusations are only unofficial and verbal.

RFA: You have been accused of being affiliated with a CIA agent. You are also listed on a leaked blacklist of people to be arrested. Are you worried about your safety?

Kem Monovithya: I would like to reiterate that the government has not accused the U.S. officially. I believe the government is after my family. They are trying to put us in danger. My family and the CNRP leadership obviously have personal security and safety concerns. We trust that the current government will do whatever it takes to intimidate us. We don’t have any option but to move forward. We know our road is bumpy. Yet we have to continue the fight, because we believe in people power and in their will to continue the fight too.

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