Cambodia

Sam Rainsy Takes Helm of New Opposition Coalition

Following a decision by extraordinary congress, the Sam Rainsy Party will now be headed by Kong Koam, an opposition lawmaker who had been acting president of the party.

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Kong SothanarithVOA Khmer
PHNOM PENH - The opposition Sam Rainsy Party has changed leadership. The former leader of the self-named party will now head the new opposition coalition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Following a decision by extraordinary congress, the Sam Rainsy Party will now be headed by Kong Koam, an opposition lawmaker who had been acting president of the party.

“There will be only two political poles in 2013,” Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer, calling the July 2013 parliamentary elections “a dual” between the opposition and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. The Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party, which together hold 29 of 123 seats in the National Assembly, will not contest the elections. But Sam Rainsy said the two parties will remain the “two legs” of the new opposition, which was formed in July.

Sam Rainsy remains in exile abroad, facing 12 years imprisonment on charges he says are politically motivated should he return to Cambodia.

In an opinion written for the New York Times this week, Sam Rainsy outlined the new party’s platform.

“Prohibition of land theft will be at the core of our program,” he wrote in a letter urging US President Barack Obama to forego a trip to Cambodia for a regional summit later this month. “Our government will cancel all land, forest and mining concessions granted by [Prime Minister] Hun Sen that were associated with the eviction of legitimate landowners. Local communities will be given rights to decide how land, forest and fishing zones are managed.”

The new party will seek to rid the civil service of corruption, he wrote. “We will introduce a health service that gives Cambodians access to basic care. Our government will make it illegal for any organization, including political parties, to get new members through coercion. We will reform the National Election Committee to make it independent and introduce an age limit for prime ministers to avert the specter of Hun Sen, or anyone else, ruling the country for life.”

The new party has enough support in Cambodia “to win a free and fair election,” he wrote.

Sam Rainsy will retain an advisory position with his self-named party. His wife, Tiolong Samura, was named SRP vice president.
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