Controversial amendments to Cambodia’s law governing political parties has caused concern among opposition supporters in the United States, who fear that they could be barred from funding the Cambodia National Rescue Party under the new rules.
At a gathering on Sunday, CNRP lawmaker Ho Vann met supporters in Washington, DC, attendees said they were now being more cautious about using such events to bring in money ahead of local elections in June.
“Whatever ways they can find to help the people there [in Cambodia] it’s up to them,” said Ken Kiv, an organizer of the event.
Under the new rules, passed by Cambodia’s parliament earlier this month, all forms of financial contributions from overseas institutions and foreign-funded groups are banned from donating to political parties in Cambodia.
Rithy Ung, the head of an independent CNRP supporters’ group in the U.S., said while the law should not apply to Cambodian-Americans, he was concerned about how it may be interpreted.
“As members and supporters here at the party branch we have a right to support our party,” he said. “The Cambodian People’s Party supporters overseas help their party, too,” he said of the ruling party.
Sok Eysan, a CPP spokesman, dismissed the concerns, saying Prime MInister Hun Sen’s ruling party would not be “upset”.
“They are free to contribute to any party they like. There’s no problem,” he said, adding that the law only prohibited non-Cambodians from funding political parties.
Twelve parties are set to contest seats in the June commune elections, but only the CPP and CNRP have registered candidates in all 1,646 constituencies.
Ngim Nheng, CNRP lawmaker for Pursat province, said local supporters, including those overseas, felt like they have “ownership” of the party, as it was so reliant on grassroots support to fund its activities.
“In fact, the opposition in Cambodia has never received financial support from the government. We’ve relied on Cambodians overseas.”
“Every election, the ruling party spends lots of money and we don’t know how much they spend. There is no balance of their spending with ours,” he said.
Kiv, the event’s organizer, said attendees planned to support candidates in Mondulkiri province, “because it’s less developed than other provinces... it’s very far from the capital and lacks hospitals.”