Sam Rainsy, former president of the now banned Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has called on Cambodian voters to boycott the general election on July 29 if his party is not allowed to participate. As leader of the newly founded Cambodia National Rescue Movement, he is rallying support for the political party that was outlawed by the country’s Supreme Court in November 2017. Currently living in self-imposed exile to avoid convictions seen as politically motivated, Sam Rainsy has called on voters to continue supporting the CNRP despite ongoing efforts by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for 33 years, to ensure that his own ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) wins the election by cracking down on the political opposition, NGOs, and the media. Speaking with reporter Vuthy Huot from RFA’s Khmer Service, Sam Rainsy discussed the current political situation in the run-up to the election. The following is an edited version of their conversation.
RFA: Prime Minister Hun Sen continues to say that he and the ruling party are the ones who have brought peace to Cambodia and that to maintain peace and stability the only option is to vote for him and his party. He treats the opposition as a threat to peace. What is your reaction to that assertion?
Sam Rainsy: Hun Sen is persecuting people who love democracy. He is persecuting the independent media, NGOs, and the opposition. The current government is losing its legitimacy now after Hun Sen has staged a constitutional coup when he dissolved the CNRP.
RFA: With the May 14 deadline for political party and candidate registration in the upcoming election almost here, is it likely that the CNRP is not going to be able to register because there is no political resolution yet? What is your position on this?
Sam Rainsy: I would like to repeat my call for people to boycott the election. If we do not go to vote, the government that is formed as the result of the bogus election will be illegitimate and doomed to automatic failure. The current government can survive only for another three months until July 29, 2018. After that, it will die because of a lack of support and legitimacy. I would like to encourage Cambodians to stay strong and unified and not go to vote. The dictatorship will ultimately die after the majority of people stay home in protest.
RFA: What happens if the upcoming election is held without participation by the CNRP?
Sam Rainsy: The CNRP is strongly supported by Cambodians. We will hold another election. We strongly believe that we will win that election.
Reported by Vuthy Huot for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.