Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior announced on Wednesday it will investigate allegations that the country’s main political opposition party has received funds from foreign sources, vowing to shut the party down if the charges can be proved.
The statement followed the expulsion last week of U.S.-funded NGO the National Democratic Institute, the shuttering of independent radio stations, and other moves by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) that critics say are aimed at silencing voices critical of the party and Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen ahead of national elections next year.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, interior ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak said that the ministry has now asked Cambodia’s national police to look into charges, posted anonymously on a Facebook page, that the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) has received foreign funding.
“They will be fine if no proof is found against them,” Khieu Sopheak said.
“But if we find proof, we will seek advice from the ministry’s leadership on how to proceed against them,” he said, adding that if the CNRP is found to be receiving foreign money, it will be banned under provisions of a new law regulating the activities of political parties in Cambodia.
Reports in government-aligned media outlets in recent weeks have regularly attacked the CNRP, linking the daughters of party leader Kem Sokha to foreign nationals accused of plotting to overthrow the country’s government.
Also speaking to RFA, CNRP spokesperson Yim Sovann said the party—which made impressive gains in commune elections in June, receiving nearly 44 percent of the vote—faithfully follows Cambodian law and has filed reports with the interior ministry demonstrating its transparency.
“I don’t understand why information taken from an anonymous source is being used like this against the CNRP,” he said. “Information critical of other political parties has never been given this kind of attention before.”
Local political analyst Meas Ny meanwhile called the threatened government investigation into CNRP funding unfair and politically motivated, adding that Cambodia’s law on political parties will likely be used only against opposition groups.
“If the Ministry of Interior issues restrictions related to this matter, I think that there will soon be no opposition parties left at all,” he said.
'No credit in this'
Speaking on Wednesday to a crowd of thousands of garment factory workers in Phnom Penh, prime minister Hun Sen said that only the ruling CPP works to defend the interests of the country and its workers.
“We call for people to invest in, give aid to, and buy products from Cambodia,” Hun Sen said. “Your wages have increased thanks to your own hard work and the work of your employers and the government.”
“The opposition party has no credit in this at all,” he said.
CNRP spokesperson Yim Sovann dismissed his party’s concern over Hun Sen’s remarks, however, saying, “We pay greater attention to what our own constituents say about us.”
“We listen to them, and not to anyone else.”
Reported by Moniroth Morm and Neang Ieng for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Richard Finney.