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Former Cambodia Opposition Leader Forms New ‘Movement’ for Fair Elections

The video screenshot shows former Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy talks about the formation of Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM) at a Cambodian temple in Brooklyn, New York, January 13, 2018. (Courtesy of Sam Rainsy Facebook page)

According to Sam Rainsy, the new movement would support free elections and civil society in Cambodia.

Cambodia’s former opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, has said he is forming a “movement” to seek free and fair elections in Cambodia.

The party he led, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was dissolved by a contentious court decision in November and its current leader, Kem Sokha, jailed on charges of conspiring with a foreign power.

Rainsy’s new Cambodia National Rescue Movement, he said, would support free elections and civil society in Cambodia, but a ruling party spokesman said it was evidence that the opposition was fragmented.

The political movement was established by a number of exiled opposition leaders, including Rainsy’s wife, Tiuolong Saumura.

Nine representatives of the CNRM, as it is to be known, were announced on Saturday, including CNRP vice presidents Mu Sochua and Eng Chhay Eang.

Speaking to supporters in Brooklyn, NY, Rainsy said the CNRM would be a rallying point for CNRP supporters and seek the freedom of Sokha, as well as other jailed CNRP members and supporters and activists, such as Tep Vanny.

He added that the main focus of the CNRM would be to “resurrect” the party.

“Based on this movement, pro-democracy supporters and nationalists can work together to open the threshold for a fair election,” Rainsy said.

In a video clip of the speech posted to Rainsy’s Facebook page, he said the CNRM would be “stronger than the [CNRP]” because it would not be restricted by the rules governing political parties.

However, Sok Eysan, CPP spokesman, said the ruling Cambodian People’s Party would “outlaw rebellions and they [the CNRM] could do things abroad only.”

The CNRP was a merger between the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party, led by Sokha. Eysan claimed the creation of the CNRM was evidence of a new split among the CNRP leaders.

Lao Mong Hay, a veteran political observer, agreed.

“It’s the beginning of the CNRP’s end because they stopped using the party’s structure to act any more,” Mong Hay told VOA Khmer. “The previous dissolution was only on paper, the structure remained ... but now it is fragile.”

“I don’t think it could resolve any issue, it won’t solve the current political tension or this bad situation. The election will be organized in the current situation; the election’s result will be the same,” he added.

The general election is scheduled for July.