The long-exiled leader of the “People’s Power” movement, Sourn Serey Ratha, returned to Cambodia on Thursday, following a pardon for the crime of treason by King Norodom Sihamoni in July.
Sourn Serey Ratha had been accused of leading an anti-government movement and had been on the lam abroad since 2013.
Addressing reporters on his return to Phnom Penh International Airport Thursday, he said Cambodia’s election body remains flawed, while the opposition has become too closely tied to the ruling party.
“We want a free and fair election, not an election to continue the new government mandate with the same leaders,” he told reporters. “The People’s Power Party wants Cambodia to be the winner. If the election system is not changed to make a free and fair election, the Cambodian people will still be the losers.”
The People’s Power Party will join with other smaller parties to contest upcoming elections, he said, attacking issues around the National Election Committee, Vietnamese citizen’s voting in Cambodian elections and other alleged irregularities.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party is too closely tied to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, he said. “CNRP’s leaders have got away from their supporters, they cheat their supporters’ will, they do not stay with their political will to lead their millions of supporters to their aims,” he said. “Therefore, the most scary thing for them is for their supporters to understand the reality. Once their millions of supporters know that their leaders have cheated them, they will not support them any more.”
Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann told VOA Khmer the party is not concerned with such allegations, as the People’s Power Party is not an actual opponent in upcoming elections. “The CNRP has only one challenger—the CPP—and let’s let the people judge [his words],” he said. “To my understanding, his words are similar to what CPP leaders used to say.”