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Human Rights Party Looks to Grow Ahead of Polls

Kem Sokha talks politics on VOA Khmer's 'Hello VOA' program Monday.
Kem Sokha talks politics on VOA Khmer's 'Hello VOA' program Monday.

The minority opposition Human Rights Party held a convention in the US on Sunday, hoping to strengthen its appeal to US-Cambodians who are becoming less interested in politics back home.

The Human Rights Party, which holds three seats in the National Assembly, will seek to expand its reach in upcoming local elections in 2012 and in national elections in 2013.

At a party congress in Philadelphia, Penn., party president Kem Sokha told a gathering of supporters from the US, Canada and Europe that the party, though young, had seen an increase in support.

"The Human Rights Party walks on the right path, which is not only for rural people, the poor, the commoners, the vulnerable, but also for those who are in power, the rich, and those who already have happiness,” Kem Sokha said. “Our target is to help the weak and the poor, but we are not destroying those who already have happiness.”

The convention was only the second for the party since its formation in 2007. Since then, supporters have grown from four to 17 US states, said Keo Sambath, who was selected to head the party's North America branch.

The general level of interest in Cambodian politics among those who now live in the US is in decline, he said, but the party is looking to invigorate them.

“I want to make sure that our people [in the US] stand up,” he said. “They should not feel that Cambodia belongs to other people. I want to make sure that they go and help our country.”

Party officials said they will now seek to reach out further to the international community, mobilize more human resources and find more funding.

The congress brought in some new recruits, though some had little or no political background.

“I have never been with any political party before,” said Tep Sothy, a high school teacher from Chicago. “But when I saw the Human Rights Party, I knew that the leader was a good person. He has good morals and wants to find freedom for others. The party's name is also good for all people. These are the reason why I joined the party.”