The vice president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has asked members to temper their verbal attacks on the ruling party and to prepare to be leaders of the country instead.
Kem Sokha is overseeing the party in the absence of its president, Sam Rainsy, who remains in exile abroad to avoid prison time for criminal defamation charges.
Kem Sokha recently met with US Secretary of State John Kerry, telling him that Cambodians, like the people of Myanmar, want to see a change of regime in their country. Kerry told reporters during his visit that free and fair elections remain an important election of US foreign policy.
Kem Sokha has also sought to curb the rhetorical attacks by members of his party on the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, since such attacks are often met with political retribution.
“We don’t need to have arguments,” he said. “We’ll just take our time to prepare for leading the country. The people have turned to support us, so we don’t need to do anything.”
“The people are aware of who cuts the logs and who sells them,” he said, a reference to the widespread corruption within illegal logging.
Cambodia is preparing for elections in 2017 and 2018, at a time of great change in Asian politics. The opposition National League for Democracy won Myanmar’s elections in November, along with a win by Taiwan’s opposition, Tsai Ing-wen.
However, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the party is not a junta and should not be compared to Myanmar. The Rescue Party, he said, appeals to other governments to cut aid or investment to Cambodia when it is unhappy with the government, he said.
Ou Virak, head of the think tank Future Forum, said the Rescue Party does have a chance to win the upcoming elections, but it should be worried about its ability to govern the country thereafter.
“Can the CNRP say to its supporters that the CNRP has the human resources, specialized in all fields, including education and health, not to mention security?” he asked. “What are their ideas for solving national issues?”