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Merger of Opposition Remains at Impasse


Kem Sokha, president of Human Right Party, called the merger the “final chance” for the parties to organize for democratic change.

Kem Sokha, president of Human Right Party, called the merger the “final chance” for the parties to organize for democratic change.

The leader of the minority Human Rights Party has written exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy to propose both parties merge ahead of elections next year, but the two sides remain unable to find common ground.

In an official letter, HRP President Kem Sokha proposes a new party be formed under a new banner, rather than have his party merge under the Sam Rainsy Party banner. He called the merger the “final chance” for the parties to organize for democratic change.

“We want a new establishment for all, which will be a new kind of democracy-building so that all can live together,” Kem Sokha said in a phone interview Monday. “We tremendously want to mobilize and win against the [Cambodian People’s Party]. Then we can change the current leader.”

The two parties have tried unsuccessfully to join for at least two years, following national elections in 2008 that gave 26 seats to the Sam Rainsy Party and three seats to the Human Rights Party. The CPP won 90 seats.

Kem Sokha said the stalled merger plan was in part due to the leadership of Sam Rainsy.

“We see that the leadership system today in the Sam Rainsy Party makes it not possible to accept any other forces,” he said. “We have seen since 2003 only those who leave, not those who join. So now that the space is narrow, I will speak plainly. It’s narrow in that the leadership has not been a wide democracy.”

He noted the recent defection of SRP lawmaker Mao Monyvann to the Human Rights Party, among others.

However, Sam Rainsy, when contacted by phone in France, said Kem Sokha’s language echoed that of the CPP. Before any integration, he said, both sides will need to see each other as partners, “not enemies,” he said.

“Do not confuse the enemy for democrats among the nationalists,” he said.

Sam Rainsy has been removed from his parliamentary seat, following guilty verdicts for several charges related to anti-Vietnamese protests in 2009. It is unclear whether a political solution can be found for his return for 2012 commune elections or 2013 national elections.

Hang Puthea, executive director for the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said both parties lack a willingness to cooperate.

“I think that each party has an individual policy, or strategy, so when the two are added up to each other, there are clearly overlapping points that impact each other,” he said.

And while it is hard to predict the movements of politicians, he said, the two parties will gain little by waiting until too close to the election if they are to come together.

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