Kem Sokha, the deputy leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, who was granted amnesty by King Norodom Sihamoni late last week on the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen, has said that he shares the same vision of a united Cambodia as his adversary.
On December 2, King Sihamoni issued a decree pardoning Sokha, who was sentenced to five months in prison for missing a court appearance earlier in the year.
Two days later, at a party meeting, Sokha said the pardon had been granted without condition and no deal had been struck.
“This is the first step of the political solution. I am free with no conditions made and we have agreed to this. There was no trade-off,” he said.
He added that some people had raised concerns that the agreement was linked to a split in the party, or that concessions had been made on issues such as the party’s stance on border demarcation with Vietnam.
However, Sokha dismissed the concerns. “To be honest, the prime minister and I have the same vision and values for the future of our nation, for national unity into the future,” he said.
Sokha said he would soon join party meetings in parliament, having been restricted to party headquarters for several months over fears he would be arrested if he ventured out.
Ou Virak, president of the Future Forum think tank, said he thought that there may be ulterior motives to the decision, such as an attempt to divide the party.
“The opposition party is not strong. Even though it was formed as a merger between two dynamic and popular people, it’s still a weak party,” he said, referring to the party’s founding, in 2012, when Sokha’s Human Rights Party merged with Sam Rainsy’s eponymous party.