PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA —
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has selected its former deputy leader, Kem Sokha, to assume the presidency following the departure of Sam Rainsy last month.
Son Chhay, a senior CNRP lawmaker, also told local media that the party’s new deputy presidents would be Eng Chhay Sang, Pol Ham, and Mu Sochua.
Rainsy, who lives in exile in France, resigned from the party on February 11 after the ruling Cambodian People’s Party began legal proceedings that could have led to the CNRP’s dissolution if he had not stepped down.
Amendments made last month to the Law on Political Parties mean that the Interior Ministry and Supreme Court now have the power to dissolve political parties whose leaders have criminal records.
The President of Cambodia National Rescue Party Kem Sokha during the party's convention on March 2, 2017. (Aun Chhengpor/VOA Khmer)
Rainsy was convicted of defamation several years ago in a case brought by former foreign minister Hor Namhong. He also faces further charges in several ongoing lawsuits filed by members of the ruling party.
Chhay told VOA Khmer that the selection of the new leadership was completed so that the party met the requirements of participation in the forthcoming local elections, scheduled for June.
“We are a party with a tradition of responsibility in terms of working and serving the interest of the citizens. Therefore, the party is still the same and the arrangement is ensured by the internal unification of the party,” he said.
Following Rainsy’s departure, several other party members who have been convicted of crimes have also resigned from their positions.
Meas Ny, a social development researcher, said the new appointments may resolve the party’s problems to some extent.
He continued, “they know there will be more problems to overcome. Therefore, the arrangement is considered as an effort of the opposition party to stabilize the situation and function normally”.
“Whether the election of the CNRP president will resolve the political tension,” he added, “depends on the actions of the new leadership.”