Former members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party formed a new political entity on Thursday, taking the number of parties formed by the former opposition members following the CNRP’s dissolution to three.
Former CNRP officials Chiv Cata and Kang Kimhak are the co-founders of the party and were previously part of the 118 opposition officials banned following the dissolution of the party in 2017.
The two former CNRP members were given amnesty from the ban last March, during an attempt by the government to create factions in the opposition by allowing members to request a return to political activity.
Chiv Cata, sitting alongside 21 members of the new party, said the party, called Cambodian Nation Love Party, was created because of the hopeless situation of the party leadership and to continue the “struggles against dictatorship and injustice.”
Senior opposition leader Kem Sokha is currently on bail and will go to trial on treason charges in two weeks and former party leader Sam Rainsy is in exile in France.
“The reason that we create this new party is because we are hopeless… and because of the ongoing divisions among the [opposition] democrats,” Chiv Cata said.
The party claimed that it was independent of existing political affiliations and was being funded, for now, by its members.
Chhim Kan, chief of the Interior Ministry’s Department of Association and Political Party Affairs, said he had already received the application and the application would be approved if the party met all the necessary requirements.
Since the CNRP was dissolved, three new parties have been formed by its former members or their family members. They are the Khmer Will Party, Khmer Conservatism Party and now the Cambodian Nation Love Party.
Kong Monika, youngest son of CNRP and Sam Rainsy Party stalwart Kong Koam founded the Khmer Will Party a few months before the 2018 general election, where the party won no parliamentary seats.
In September 2019, former CNRP lawmaker Real Camerin founded the Khmer Conservatism Party, after he too received political rehabilitation in March.
Morn Phalla, a former CNRP executive member living in exile, said it was not the right time for his former colleagues to form a new party.
“This is indeed just to serve and to help support the ruling party’s legitimacy, particularly, to entertain Mr. Hun Sen’s ambitions,” Morn Phalla said.
After the 2018 national election, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party won all National Assembly seats, turning parliament into a one-party legislative body. Observers and analysts have said the creation of smaller, so-called opposition parties was intended to legitimize the government’s claims of a multiparty democracy and to fracture the opposition CNRP.
However, CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan dismissed any allegation that the ruling party was behind the creation of these smaller parties to mitigate risks of foreign reprimand, such as the current EU investigation into a potential suspension of the “Everything But Arms” trade privileges.
“It is their autonomous right as citizens to form a political party or an association,” Sok Eysan said.