Top opposition party youth leader switches allegiance to Hun Sen’s ruling party

Yim Sinorn was jailed a month ago for comments posted on Facebook that were critical of Cambodia’s king.
By RFA Khmer
Share on WhatsApp
Share on WhatsApp
Top opposition party youth leader switches allegiance to Hun Sen’s ruling party Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen meets former CNRP youth leader Yim Sinorn on April 21, 2023.
Credit: Yim Sinorn's wife’s Facebook page

A former opposition party youth leader who was recently jailed after he posted comments on Facebook about the government and Cambodia’s king announced on Friday that he was joining the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Yim Sinorn met with Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday at his home in Kandal province, where he and his family posed for photos as the longtime leader sat at his desk. 

The defection of a prominent and outspoken opposition activist comes as the CPP continues to work to silence, intimidate and co-opt opposition figures ahead of the July general elections.

Yim Sinorn has been a close ally of Kem Sokha, the leader of the now-banned Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) who was sentenced to 27 years for treason last month in a decision widely condemned as politically motivated. 

On Friday, Yim Sinorn blamed officials from the opposition Candlelight Party for ignoring him while he was in detention last month and for accusing him of being a double agent.

“Samdech Hun Sen, I want to see Cambodia to have a strong democratic system based on Cambodia’s standard and to comply with the Constitution,” he wrote on his wife’s Facebook page, using an honorific title. 

“It is my duty to be committed to protect peace and prevent any attempts to destroy the country. I have little education and experience but I want to serve the country and her people,” Yim Sinorn wrote. “If Samdech gives me a chance I would like to join the CPP to be able to serve the people and the country.”

Messages from the coffee shop

Yim Sinorn was once the head of the CNRP’s youth movement in South Korea, where nearly 50,000 Cambodians work, mostly as factory workers. In 2019, he helped organize a demonstration of workers against the Hun Sen government in Gwangju.

Later that year, he and nine colleagues were charged in Phnom Penh Municipal Court with conspiracy and inciting serious social unrest in Cambodia and elsewhere. In September 2021, he wrote a letter to Hun Sen saying the charges against him were unfair and that he never supported leading opposition figure Sam Rainsy.

Hun Sen was apparently satisfied with the letter and the court dropped all charges against him and the other nine defendants. Yim Sinorn returned to Cambodia in January 2022.  

In March, he was arrested after posting a comment on Facebook that seemed to highlight the political powerlessness of King Norodom Sihamoni, who is required by Cambodia’s 1993 Constitution to reign as a national figurehead.

“According to the people at the coffee shop, today we clearly know who is truly the king,” Yim Sinorn wrote.

He was released a week later after he posted a video and a statement from prison apologizing for the message.

“I take this occasion to ask for forgiveness from the king and apologize to Samdech Hun Sen publicly with honesty,” he said at the time.

‘A core person to Kem Sokha’

In February, Radio Free Asia reported that environmental workers and opposition party members are being offered jobs in the government by the CPP as a way of weakening any competition ahead of the July general election.

Political analyst Seng Sary said Yim Sinorn’s switch to the CPP makes it even more likely that opposition party activists will continue to defect to the CPP in the coming months.

“Yim Sinorn was a core person to Kem Sokha,” he said. “I think there might be more people defecting [to the CPP]. This defection is like a pandemic.” 

Yim Sinorn said on Facebook that he asked Hun Sen to release his colleague Hun Kosal, who was also arrested last month after posting similar comments about the king. Hun Kosal hasn’t apologized to Hun Sen and is still in jail. 

Yim Sinorn’s wife, Sophat Makara, posted photos of Friday’s meeting with Hun Sen on her Facebook page, calling the prime minister “my Samdech father.”

“My husband and family will try our best to work hard and won’t disappoint my father,” she wrote. “I can survive because of my father and mother.” 

CPP spokesman Chhim Phalvorun said Yim Sinorn has his political rights and can choose any party that he likes. He said the CPP will look into his request and his qualifications. 

Hun Sen made no comment on his Telegram account about the latest news, but he did repost an article from the pro-government news site, Freshnews, about his meeting with Yim Sonorn. 

Translated by Yun Samean. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.