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Cambodian Opposition Divided Over Plans for Party Congress


A supporter of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party holds a poster of the party leader Kem Sokha during a rally joined by lawmakers near an appeals court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

The gathering by ‘overseas’ CNRP members is set to be held in Atlanta, GA. on Saturday and Sunday.

A faction of Cambodia’s former opposition party loyal to its detained leader Kem Sokha has said they are unhappy with plans to hold a party meeting in the United States.

The group has said that the plans, arranged by officials close to Sam Rainsy, the former president of Sokha’s Cambodia National Rescue Party, would jeopardize the future of the party.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party jailed Sokha on treason charges in September 2017 and dissolved the CNRP the following month. Sokha was released into house arrest earlier this year. Legal charges against him remain in place. Sokha has not spoken publicly since his release into house arrest.

The gathering by ‘overseas’ CNRP members is set to be held in Atlanta, GA. on Saturday and Sunday. A draft program describes the event as ‘the overseas CNRP world conference.’

Hundreds of senior CNRP officials and supporters are expected at the conference to “define the party’s strategy to restore Democracy in Cambodia.” Sam Rainsy, who is based in France, and other prominent Cambodian opposition politicians are set to attend, according to a draft program.

Sokha’s lawyer, Meng Sopheary, told reporters in Phnom Penh this week that Sokha “doesn’t support any party’s world congress to be held overseas.”

“Right now the legal procedure reached a standstill, and we are waiting for the court investigation to be closed,’’ said Meng Sopheary, who noted he met with Sokha this week. ‘’We don’t know when it’s going to be closed yet.”

Several other senior CNRP officials here have expressed discontent with the decision to organize a major party meeting in the U.S.

Soun Sorida, a former CNRP representative of Kampong Speu province, said the decision to meet this weekend did not follow party procedure, which he said requires all party events to be organized through official committees.

“Any one-sided action carried out without the whole party’s consent is not the party’s action,’’ Sorida told VOA Khmer. "This means the other side of the party is not acknowledging the action and leads to an exchange of verbal attacks among officials.”

Pon Saory, one of the primary organizers of this weekend’s meeting, told VOA Khmer that the purpose of the gathering is to try to find the best path forward for democracy in Cambodia. He said Sam Rainsy was attending as an ‘observer.’

“President Sam Rainsy’s participation in this event is only to observe the democratic process of organizing a conference by the CNRP’s overseas branch, and of finding solutions and strategies to rebuild our party and to push for the release of our leader,” Pon Saory said.

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