Twelve founding members of the Students’ Movement for Democracy have resigned from the outspoken group, not long after their second in command also stepped down.
“The SMD has not made a genuine attempt in the sacrificial struggle against absolute communism to bring real democracy to Khmer nation,” the group’s statement of resignation said.
According to the statement, dated Nov 21, the splinter group was disgruntled with the group for some time.
Rous Bunthy, who has been vocal during protests against alleged border encroachments by Vietnam, said the 12 breakaway student leaders intend to form a new party.
“We resigned from the group because we lost our confidence in SMD,” Rous Bunthy said.
But the Students’ Movement for Democracy Deputy Director Oum Sam An said the wave of resignations will pose little threat to the group in the future. He said the group’s 150 members—students and faculty from various Cambodian schools and universities—will continue in their quest to secure a voice of opposition against the government.
In mid-November, Suth Dina left his post as the group’s second in command after completing a government-funded study program in the US. He charged the group with being “undermined,” maintaining that the group’s leader, Saro Sivutha, softened his criticism of the government after meetings with Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Council of Ministers.
Resigning group member Sun Sokunmeala echoed these concerns, suggesting powerful political parties could be applying the divide-and-conquer rule to the students’ movement. She went so far as to float the idea that some confidences were bought.
Group leader Saro Sivutha has been in Thailand for the last week and was unable to comment. But he previously denied that the group had internal problems and implied that his former deputy was the one who was undermined.