Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has resigned from the Cambodia National Rescue Party amid ruling party efforts to pass a law that could be used to dissolve parties whose leaders are convicted of criminal offenses.
In a letter dated February 11 posted on his Facebook page, Sam Rainsy said the decision to step down was for “a personal reason”.
“The rubber-stamp National Assembly under the control of the CPP is preparing a new ‘law’ to expediently dissolve the CNRP by pointing at me as the pretext,” Rainsy said on his Facebook page.
“This law aimed to institutionalize a one-party system is being tailor-made for me – in my capacity as CNRP president – since the CNRP is the only opposition party represented at the National Assembly and the only party that can defeat the CPP. But this anti-Sam Rainsy law will have little impact on Cambodian politics.”
Rainsy added that whatever position he holds in the party, he remains “the symbol and embodies the spirit of resistance to the autocratic and corrupt Hun Sen regime.”
“In all circumstances I continue to cherish and to uphold the CNRP’s ideals in my heart,” he said.
The resignation took place amid political tension between the ruling party and the opposition.
Rainsy is facing several complaints in court filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen over claims that Hun Sen bought "likes" on Facebook, and also from the National Assembly’s President Heng Samrin.
Two days before his resignation, U.S. Congressman Alan Lowenthal and Steve Chabot, who head the Bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Cambodia, called on the newly-appointed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to pay attention to Cambodia and consider free and fair elections in 2017 and 2018 a priority in U.S. foreign policy in the country.
The letter also highlighted repression by the Hun Sen regime on political opponents, including the “politically-motivated” investigation and criminal charges against senior leaders of the CNRP.
“In order to foster a political environment where this is possible, the Cambodian government must immediately drop all politically-motivated charges against opposition leaders, cease harassment of the CNRP, allow Sam Rainsy to freely return to the country, and allow independent election observers at all polling places,” the letter said.