More than 50 CNRP officials seeking the removal of lawmaker Ke Sovannaroth as the party’s head in Siem Reap province carried through with a threat to bring their case to Phnom Penh, demonstrating Monday for two hours outside the opposition’s headquarters in Meanchey district.
The protesters included officials with executive positions on the CNRP’s provincial and district levels, and accuse Ms. Sovannaroth—who is married to Yim Sovann, chairman of the party’s executive committee—of nepotism and spending irregularities.
Seng Ratha, deputy chief of the opposition’s coordinating group in Siem Reap’s Kralanh district, said the party officials had traveled to Phnom Penh overnight to put their case directly to party leaders.
“Our important purpose today is to come meet with [CNRP] President Sam Rainsy and Vice President Kem Sokha to ask them to change Ke Sovannaroth, the Siem Reap province lawmaker—to remove her as working group chief and be replaced by any other lawmaker,” he said.
Mr. Ratha said he was afraid Ms. Sovannaroth would lead the CNRP down the same path as the ruling CPP.
“We’ve seen the CPP, led by nepotism, destroying the country, and we have also seen some small points [in the CNRP in Siem Reap] that they want to do this too, but we want to be led as a democracy,” Mr. Ratha said.
Blek Sothea, a member of the CNRP’s Siem Reap working group, said although Ms. Sovannaroth has led the opposition for more than a decade in the province, she has done little to improve the party’s standing there.
“She has led for three mandates but it has not developed. She is nepotistic and she appoints people who are close to her or support her,” Mr. Sothea said.
“She removed more than 10 activists who sacrificed all their energy and property [for the party] and appointed her own officers because they are ‘yes men’ officials.”
After the protest in front of his offices had gone on for about two hours, Mr. Rainsy, the opposition leader, emerged to speak to the protesters, congratulating them for coming to Phnom Penh but saying he had to consider the opinions of others in Siem Reap.
“Thank you to people who love the party and have opinions about how to strengthen the party to win at the next election,” Mr. Rainsy told the protesters, explaining he would visit Siem Reap soon to survey popular opinion.
“We have to meet each other again in Siem Reap and we will call all the people from everywhere who have different opinions, and we will listen all together.”
Ms. Sovannaroth said by telephone after the protest that she had overseen growth in the opposition’s vote in Siem Reap—from 29,000 in 2003 to over 140,000 in 2013—and was not afraid of any inquiry into her activities.
“The opposition party is never corrupt because we do not go to cut down trees or do anything wrong,” Ms. Sovannaroth said.
“Please show evidence for the accusations that I have spent money without transparency,” she added. “I will leave it to the local and national leaders of the CNRP to evaluate me.”