The Human Rights Party (HRP) on Sunday officially appointed a new president to replace outgoing leader Kem Sokha, who is to be deputy president of a newly formed opposition coalition to run in this year’s national election.
Mr. Sokha—who is replaced by an adviser to late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, Son Soubert—explained at a party congress that he was formally standing down in order to take his position in the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), a party formed after a merger with the SRP, ahead of July’s national elections.
“The main reason I hold a congress today is to give me a chance to resign as president of the Human Rights Party to receive a position in the historic mission with Sam Rainsy to lead the Cambodian National Rescue Party,” Mr. Sokha told a congress of more than 1,000 HRP members at the party’s headquarters in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district.
Mr. Sokha also took the opportunity to criticize Prime Minister Hun Sen, saying he was no match for Mr. Rainsy, who currently resides in France to avoid several convictions widely seen as politically motivated.
“Comparing their ability, we don’t need to compare. Sam Rainsy, if he was to teach, he would be in the faculty of at least a high school,” he said. “But the current prime minister, if he went to school, he would just go to primary school. He wouldn’t even be Sam Rainsy’s student.”
“Everyone knows that the current leadership is corrupt, a dictatorship, [that aids] deforestation and violates human rights,” he continued.
Although the parties will now put most of their efforts into campaigning for the CNRP in July’s poll, the HRP and SRP will continue to exist, since they retain commune councilors elected last year.
Mr. Soubert, a former member of the Constitutional Council, officially took the party’s presidency Sunday. Mr. Soubert’s father was late veteran politician Son Sann, founder of resistance group the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front.
“We hope the Cambodian National Rescue Party will win the election if the election is free and fair,” Mr. Soubert said.