The acting president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party plans to continue boycotting the National Assembly, but other party members are free to attend the parliamentary body’s plenary session on Tuesday, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann told RFA’s Khmer Service on Monday.
“CNRP lawmakers have just unanimously decided that the acting president of the CNRP Kem Sokha should not avail himself to attend the next parliamentary plenary,” Yim Sovann said on the RFA TV-Live Show.
“However, all CNRP lawmakers who are available are encouraged to attend it,” he added. “Given the fact that there is still no political solution to the current political tension and atmosphere, Kem Sokha will continue to remain in the CNRP Headquarters.”
Kem Sokha has been hiding out in the party’s headquarters in Phnom Pehn since police attempted to arrest him in May for ignoring court orders to appear as a witness in a pair of defamation cases related to his alleged affair with a hairdresser.
After a one-hour trial on Sept. 9, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Keo Mony sentenced Kem Sokha to five months in prison and an 800,000- riel (U.S. $200) fine for failing to appear in one of the related cases.
On Nov. 8 the same court found CNRP President Sam Rainsy guilty of defamation for claiming that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s social medial team bought “likes” on Facebook from “click farms” abroad to increase his support.
Sam Rainsy has been in exile for the past year to avoid a two-year prison sentence handed down in a separate defamation case. Since he left the country Kem Sokha was named acting president.
The cases against the two opposition politicians are just some of the court actions taken by the Cambodian government against opposition lawmakers that many inside and outside the country see as an attempt by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to maintain power as elections loom in 2017 and 2018.
“Both the president and acting president of the CNRP have been prevented from serving the people due to the trumped-up charges and politically motivated cases brought against them,” Yim Sovann told RFA. “Several CNRP activists including a senator and lawmaker are still locked behind bars.”
In addition to the convictions of Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy, opposition lawmakers Um Sam An, Hong Sok Hour and CNRP media director Meach Sovannara are all serving jail terms. Opposition lawmaker Thak Lany, who fled to Sweden, was convicted of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month.
“CNRP has been under pressure and suppression,” Yim Sovann told RFA. “Due to these unresolved crisis, Kem Sokha reserves his rights to remain on strike at the Headquarters. The CNRP demands a political solution so that the upcoming elections are free and fair.”
Reported by Thai Tha for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.