CNRP Mulls Future Amid Campaign ‘Disruptions’

Senior members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) met Friday night to discuss whether their party should continue to contest the July 28 election or withdraw in the wake of a series of “disruptions” over the past week, a party spokesman said.

“We have suffered a number of disruptions everywhere when we host forums,” said former HRP lawmaker and CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith. 

“We deserve a fair contest, but we cannot access the media since it is controlled [by the ruling party]. So, only senior leaders in the party will attend the meeting to decide whether or not to contest the national election,” he said.

When asked about the meeting prior to its commencement on Friday evening, self-exiled CNRP president Sam Rainsy said by email that the party was “at a turning point.”

“The recent expulsion of all opposition National Assembly members from Parliament is an institutional coup d’etat. Cambodia is heading toward political instability,” Mr. Rainsy said.

“The CNRP is calling on the international community not to recognize the electoral farce being prepared by the Hun Sen government and to condemn and isolate any government arising from such a farce,” he said.

Following the hourlong meeting of senior party members in Phnom Penh, Mr. Rainsy said: “We reserve our position for further consideration. Anything is possible in the coming days.”

However, other senior members of the opposition had a more optimistic message to take from the meeting, but said that a press conference will be held next week to clarify the party’s position.

Yim Sovann, who is also a CNRP spokesman, said after the meeting that the party would hold a press conference on Thursday to discuss what he called “a sensitive issue,” which he would not disclose beforehand. “We have to move forward with what we have been doing so far,” he said. “We are not afraid—we do not stop our activities. We continue to double our activities. All the CNRP leaders are committed to face any challenge in the future.”

CNRP election candidate Mu Sochua said that the political environment “is not very conducive to free and fair elections,” and that “in the past few days, there have been a lot of political developments that we feel is not in the interest of the people and the nation.”

However, Ms. Sochua said, there is a consensus that “nothing is going to deter us from putting everything that we have” into the election.

Over the past two weeks, 27 members of the HRP and SRP have been sacked from the National Assembly and CNRP acting president Kem Sokha has been sued separately by S-21 survivor Chum Mey and a woman who claims to have been his mistress, while Prime Minister Hun Sen has threatened to sue him after the election for accusing his ruling party of mounting a dirty tricks campaign against him.

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