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Opposition Official in US in Hopes of Breaking Deadlock

Sam Rainsy, center, president of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) greets his supporters together with his party's Vice President Kem Sokha, on Rainsy's left, on his arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, July 19, 2013. Thousands of cheering supporters greeted Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy as he returned from self-imposed exile Friday to spearhead his party's election campaign against well-entrenched Prime Minister Hun Sen. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

WASHINGTON DC - Opposition vice president Kem Sokha, who is facing court charges in Cambodia, is currently in the United States, hoping to find support for his party and a way to break Cambodia’s political stalemate.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party, which officially won 55 of 123 seats in the National Assembly in July, says fraudulent elections cost them a win at the polls. It has refused to join the formation of a new government.

Kem Sokha is in the US to speak to supporters, as well as officials and congressmen, in hopes of finding support for opposition calls for a credible investigation into alleged election allegations.

He told VOA Khmer by phone from Massachusetts he is meeting supporters to tell them the Rescue Party is “using non-violence to solve problems.”

“US officials have paid much attention to all of these issues, and the Cambodian people whom I met in the US are strongly supportive,” he said.

He has met with US political leaders, including members of Congress, “because we want the US to help ensure and protect democracy in Cambodia, especially to protect the will of the Cambodian people who are standing up to make changes in Cambodia.”

US relations with Cambodia are good, he said. “When there’s a good relationship, the US can tell the Cambodian government to work properly,” he said. “The government should follow what the US wants: democracy and justice.”

The Rescue Party, which is calling for mass demonstrations next week, is seeking changes “peacefully,” Kem Sokha said. The ruling Cambodian People’s Party is “jammed,” he said. “So I think the we must continued our political struggles by peaceful means, and these mass demonstrations must be made bigger and bigger. The CPP itself, if they are stubborn and walking in the opposition direction from what people want, they will seriously fail, because the people have demanded that changes be made.”

The Rescue Party has taken a strategy of non-violence, and “does not want to do things too fast,” he said. “We don’t want the blood of Khmer people shed, because Cambodian blood has not dried, and we know the ruling party is very cruel. That’s what we are doing, our strategy, our gradual ways, step by step—so that we will have victory without bloodshed.”

Moneaksekar Khmer, a leading opposition newspaper, is facing charges that it defamed the military, by quoting Kem Sokha’s criticism of the presence of the armed forces on Election Day and in post-election strife.

Kem Sokha himself is also facing a defamation charge, from survivors of the Khmer Rouge torture center of Tuol Sleng, who allege he made comments that information about the prison had been falsified by Vietnamese troops when they ousted the regime.

Kem Sokha, who has denied those charges, told VOA Khmer he was “not surprised.”

“We already know that is one of their tricks,” he said. “Whenever my position is stronger, and the people are supporting the stronger, they fabricate problems that threaten me, especially using the court system many times.”

Kem Sokha urged Cambodians to “stand strong, and don’t fall for their tricks.”

“If they dare to use the court system, or threaten a leader, that is a demand for justice from you all, brothers and sisters,” he said. “None of you should surrender, but you should all continue the struggle.”