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With Leaked Tape, New Woes for Opposition

Human Rights Party president Kem Sokha addresses journalists at the party's headquarter.

Human Rights Party president Kem Sokha addresses journalists at the party's headquarter.

Both of the country’s opposition parties are now ensnared in a number of challenges as they prepare to face elections in the next two years, analysts said this week.

The Sam Rainsy Party’s leader is already in exile over a number of criminal charges he says are politically motivated.

And now the president of the minority opposition Human Rights Party, Kem Sokha, is facing a challenge to his credibility, after a recording was leaked to the media in which he appears to be colluding with Prime Minister Hun Sen to divide the opposition.

Kem Sokha has denied any collaboration with the ruling Cambodian People Party, but the allegations come amid a continued failure by both parties to unite.

Hang Puthea, executive director for the Neutral and Impartial Committee for free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said that all the parties are looking head to the election campaign, “so any picture can happen.”

The leaked tape can even be considered a type of politics, he said. “I think that this is a form of democracy.”

Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy, said the leaked tape will likely mark the end of any chance for collaboration between the parties. Both parties have struggled to find common ground and unify their electorate, following national elections in 2008, when the CPP posted a resounding victory.

Cambodians will vote for local commune leaders in 2012 and a national parliament in 2013. However, Sam Rainsy remains abroad to avoid 12 years in prison sentences on charges stemming from an anti-Vietnamese demonstration in 2009.

Now Kem Sokha must face the accusations about his conversation with Hun Sen, reportedly recorded in July 2007. In that recording, the two men sound congenial. Kem Sokha reports on internal party matters, including finances, and discusses defections to his party from the Sam Rainsy Party. He also thanks Hun Sen for helping him form the Human Rights Party.

Sam Rainsy, who is currently in the US, told VOA Khmer on Wednesday that the leaked tape is evidence of a conspiracy to weaken his party. However, he said, the party has actually strengthened in recent years, having grown from 24 parliamentary seats in 2003 to 24 in 2008.

In a phone interview, Kem Sokha said the leaked tape was in fact an attempt to weaken his own party, although he did not elaborate.

“Even though the ruling party causes any number of thunder and storms,” he said, “people who love democracy, love the nation, they have a clear choice, and they are very much participating with the Human Rights Party.”