Cambodia’s Sam Rainsy Says Ruling Party Seeks to Divide Opposition

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Sam Rainsy speaks to reporters in Phnom Penh after returning from a trip to Europe, Jan. 11, 2015.
Sam Rainsy speaks to reporters in Phnom Penh after returning from a trip to Europe, Jan. 11, 2015.

Cambodia’s opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Thursday accused the country’s ruling party of seeking to undermine its competition ahead of general elections set for 2018 by establishing several smaller parties in a bid to split opposition voters.

Speaking to supporters of his Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Kampong Speu province, Sam Rainsy said Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) was “behind the establishment” of the smaller parties and called for “unity among [the country’s] democrats.”

No party had been able to defeat the CPP over the past 30 years because the country’s nationalists and democrats have remained split, the opposition chief said.

“The CPP knows that if the democrats are united, it will lose,” he said.

“They are establishing smaller parties to split the [opposition] votes.”

Sam Rainsy noted that the royalist Funcinpec party, as well as his former Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and CNRP Deputy President Kem Sohka’s former Human Rights Party (HRP), had long split the opposition vote, allowing the CPP to sweep national elections.

Since the SRP and HRP merged to become the CNRP in 2012, however, the CPP has faced a significant challenge to its control of the government.

In May last year, the CPP swept elections for Cambodia’s provincial, municipal, and district councils, winning 2,543 seats to the CNRP’s 769, but the CNRP picked up 185 more seats than the opposition’s haul in the last local elections in 2009.

The CNRP’s gains in the local elections came on the heels of strides it made in general elections in July 2013, in which the CPP suffered its worst performance since 1998.

The National Election Committee, which oversees the country’s polls, had declared that the CPP won 68 seats in parliament to the CNRP’s 55, but the CNRP has claimed it won at least 63 and boycotted the National Assembly for 10 months until the two sides agreed to pursue electoral reforms in July 2014.

Khmer For Khmer

Sam Rainsy’s statement comes after a recent announcement by several leaders of domestic nongovernmental organizations that they had established the “Khmer For Khmer” group to educate villagers about democracy and help them select their local leaders.

The NGO leaders are believed to be forming a new political party that would run against the CPP and the CNRP in the country’s 2018 elections.

Khmer For Khmer leader and political commentator Kem Ley told RFA’s Khmer Service that the CNRP had become “weak” because it had no competition.

He criticized the opposition party for “following in the CPP’s footsteps.”

“The CPP has been using a strategy of hatred and accusation against its critics, such as the opposition party,” he said.

“Now, the CNRP has learned from the CPP and is criticizing other parties. The CNRP doesn’t profit by these allegations.”

Kem Ley told the Cambodia Daily that the CPP played no role in creating or supporting his group.

“No, we just use our own resources and our own contributions. We are open for any independent auditing firm or any group to investigate us. We are open. We are moving in a transparent and accountable way,” he said, adding that Sam Rainsy’s claims were baseless.

“This is not the first time, and it’s not only him—his group always blames people without evidence-based information. But I work for my country, not for anyone.”

Funcinpec party

Sam Rainsy’s call for opposition unity also follows the return earlier this month of Prince Norodom Ranariddh to lead the royalist Funcinpec party, which he brought to victory in U.N.-sponsored elections in 1993, though he was forced to accept Hun Sen as a co-prime minister.

A son of the late King Norodom Sihanouk, Norodom Ranariddh was expelled from Funcinpec after being ousted in a coup by Hun Sen in 1997.

While the prince has said he only seeks to reunite Cambodia’s royalist parties and pledged not to interfere with the opposition, his restoration is widely seen as a behind-the-scenes maneuver by Hun Sen to divide the CPP’s competition in the 2018 elections.

Funcinpec officials have denied that Hun Sen was involved in Norodom Ranariddh’s return.

Earlier this week, on his return from a two-week trip to Europe, Sam Rainsy said the CNRP was not threatened by the growing popularity of Funcinpec and welcomed the prince’s return to politics.

“This is a political right—I welcome all to participate,” he said.

Reported by Tin Zakariya for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Comments (7)


from lowell, ma (USA)

Political is not something that is measurable 100 percent which most leaders have a backup plans that can execute dynamically. However, the most important thing is an objective goals that the people want to benefit. The promising journey to meet the core goal is branched out to various routes just like you drive a car to your destination or you use google map to guide you, or when you play chess that you have to make a move. Political is the same thing. If leader has only static plan (one plan that use again and again), not a smart choice and dumb as hell. If you believe in leader that you elected, you have to put trust in him. Let him do all the steering/navigation. Difficult task is not success in short time. Just like when you go to college. Some time the test is so easy and some time is hot, but at the end you accomplish. So, give him a space and let him do first and you can judge him later. Here is a case scenario. In 2017, national election start and there are 5 party as below:
1. CPP
3. Funcipec
4. LDP
5. Dr. Kem Ley party

If you must vote because you don't want to see our country to fall into Vietnam, which number you select? Note: If you don't vote because you don't trust anymore, who will benefit? Of course, CPP will have an edge over other party. So, if anyone don't care about saving the country from the deadly cliff, then let CPP and their headmaster take over. Then, it will be worst than sorry.

Jan 21, 2015 10:34 PM


from Phnom Penh

It's not serious that Sam Rainsy try to accuse some of smaller parties were established by CPP.Sam Rainsy himself broke promise that he vowed in front Angkor Wat that he would not be parliamentarian but as a result he broke this promise and change story that he never spoke like that, away from responsibility from what he spoke. This opposition leader was scared of losing its high position. He declared that he would not accept the result of the national election, adding that he would demonstrate all days but now he changed story that he stop demonstrating. He tried to play trick and hold his hands with CPP, and tried accused some parties of splitting him. Not because of the unit, but the truth he was afraid of getting high position. He dropped fault into CPP, with incitement of strike and push the protestors to be death; however, he declared he will stay with its supporters forever but in the urgency when the police cracked down the protestors, Sam Rainsy and Kim Sokha run for their life fast, left death and injured because these tyranny will take advantage from politics. If CPP cracked down, those bad treat will be showed to ICC, but the real no any ICC influenced over CPP, Sam Rainsy tried to tell a lie and deceived its supporters as mentioned above.

Jan 18, 2015 02:28 AM

Anonymous Reader

would china continue to pump money into an economy with sam rainsy as nominal head? obama, putin, hun sen are also nominal heads, so no slight intended. i'm just trying to draw awareness to the reality of the situation. if china isn't willing to continue to foot the bill for deforestation and casino development under a rainsy administration -- then the vote is irrelevant. hard facts.

Jan 16, 2015 10:38 PM

Anonymous Reader

I used to respect Kem Ley, but after his comment on RFA interview with Chun Chanbot, I lost all respect for him because he is a hypocrite and a liar. When Mr Chanbot asked him if he was forming a new party, he said "no" then after Chun Chanbot presses him, he said this new party was created to informing voters. I think CNRP did a really good job informing people already it didn't need another party to confuse people. CNRP already has strong grass root base to take on CPP. Mr. Kem Ley is becoming a distraction. And this maybe what the CPP want.

Don't be fooled people, stick with CNRP which will de-thrown CPP in 2018. People can not allow CPP thief to continue past 2018.

Jan 16, 2015 01:46 PM

Anonymous Reader

Sam Rainy is in trouble! Hun Sen gets the support from the king and his former co-PM.

Jan 16, 2015 08:57 AM

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