Government, CNRP to Meet, Discuss Legitimacy of Sokha

Representatives of the Interior Ministry and opposition CNRP are set to meet on Wednesday to discuss the government’s allegations that the CNRP’s election of a new president and three vice presidents earlier this month violated the party’s internal rules.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng sent a letter to opposition officials on Friday responding to the party’s request for a meeting.

“The Interior Ministry assigns his excellency Prak Sam Oeun, director-general at the Interior Ministry’s general department of administration, and expert officials to meet with representatives of the Cambodian National Rescue Party on March 29, 2017,” at the ministry’s headquarters, the letter says.

Earlier this month, Mr. Kheng suggested that the government may not recognize the opposition party if the transfer of leadership to Kem Sokha is found to have violated the CNRP’s own internal rules, potentially imperiling its election candidates.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached on Sunday.

The government has objected to the CNRP’s quick selection of Kem Sokha as president and the appointment of three vice presidents. In a letter sent to CNRP executive committee chairman Yim Sovann on Wednesday, Mr. Kheng said the party’s snap election violated its own rules, which only allows for leadership changes at a quinquennial party congress, unless that would mean the position remains vacant during a national election, in which case it can be filled.

The CNRP’s congress was already scheduled for the months before next year’s national election, but it rushed to replace Mr. Rainsy in order to have a permanent president to endorse commune candidates. It also amended its rules upon electing the new leadership.

Mr. Rainsy, who remains embroiled in numerous legal disputes that are widely seen as politically motivated, resigned last month after Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to pass a controversial law that could dissolve political parties led by individuals convicted of crimes. The law came into force earlier this month.

CNRP Vice President Pol Ham on Sunday confirmed his party planned to send representatives to Wednesday’s meeting.

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