PEAM CHOR DISTRICT, Prey Veng Province – As opposition leader Kem Sokha tours the country seeking support for his party’s July 28 election bid, his estranged brother, police Major General Kem Sokhon, is also on tour as the star attraction in efforts by the ruling CPP to discredit his sibling’s Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
At a rally in Prey Veng province on Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Sokhon—previously an opposition politician himself and now a two-star general in the National Police—joined ruling party candidates to deliver a nearly hourlong speech to a crowd of about 700 CPP supporters in Svay Phlos commune.
Maj. Gen. Sokhon told the audience that the CNRP’s policies to raise wages and offer a modest pension to senior citizens should they win the election were empty promises, and he warned that in forming the CNRP Mr. Sokha and Sam Rainsy were simply looking out for themselves.
“The Cambodia National Rescue Party is only meant to rescue Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy,” Maj. Gen. Sokhon said. “Noone knows more than Kem Sokhon, who worked with the opposition.”
Maj. Gen. Sokhon said that he had previously worked with the SRP in Prey Veng before launching the Human Rights Party (HRP) with his brother in 2007. The SRP and HRP merged to form the CNRP.
“People within the HRP told me that they know they cannot beat the CPP…they know they do not have [enough money to implement their policies],” he added, referencing the CNRP’s populist 7-point platform, which includes a raise for civil servants and a modest pension for the elderly.
“We don’t want the opposition party. We must gather to vote for the Cambodian People’s Party and we will give Samdech Hun Sen a mandate to serve as prime minister forever,” he said.
Following an ensuing speech by CPP National Assemblyman Cheam Yeap, who is once again a candidate in Prey Veng, commune chiefs from throughout the province were gathered together and given tapes of Maj. Gen. Sokhon’s speech along with a directive to play it over loudspeakers that have been set up on roads and public spaces in the province.
Yem Ponhearith, spokesman for the CNRP and a National Assembly candidate in Prey Veng, said Mr. Sokhon left the HRP in 2009, but has only recently begun publicly campaigning for the CPP.
“I call these defectors the ‘betrayal of principle group’ because when they were with us, they always said that in Cambodia there are a lot of illegal immigrants from Vietnam and the government is corrupt. But now that they have entered the Cambodian People’s Party, they are saying things they would have never said before,” Mr. Ponhearith said.
“This is deception being undertaken by the Cambodian People’s Party, who always use people like this [defectors] to attack the opposition party,” he added.
Maj. Gen. Sokhon has quickly risen within the nation’s security forces since he first began publicly campaigning against his brother and the CNRP earlier this year.
On May 22, just days after appearing on Bayon Television—which is owned by Mr. Hun Sen’s daughter Hun Mana—warning voters not to trust Mr. Sokha or Mr. Rainsy, a sub-decree was signed creating a new position within the national police especially for Maj. Gen. Sokhon.
According to the decree, which was signed by Mr. Hun Sen and King Norodom Sihamoni, Maj. Gen. Sokhon was made deputy director of the National Police’s department of central security. He previously served as an adviser to the government and a brigadier general in the Interior Ministry’s secretariat.