Khmer Nation Party President Sam Rainsy said Thursday that a government action forcing him to change his party’s name was “a blessing in disguise.”
While still condemning the Interior Ministry order as “aggressive” and “illegal,” the dissident said renaming the KNP as the “Sam Rainsy Party” would likely boost his electoral chances.
“People know Sam Rainsy much better than the KNP,” he said. “My activists will not have to explain to people in the provinces that a vote for the KNP is a vote for Sam Rainsy.
“People in Cambodia tend to personalize issues, so candidates who stand for the Sam Rainsy Party will benefit more directly from that fact,” he said.
But he added that the party still plans to revert to the KNP name after the July polls. “After the elections we would not need to personalize the issues anymore,” he said.
Sam Rainsy announced his party’s name change Tuesday after a protracted battle with rival faction leader Kong Mony, who also attempted to register for the elections under the KNP name.
The Interior Ministry last month ordered both Sam Rainsy and Kong Mony to change their party names in order to register by the March 26 deadline.
Contacted Thursday, Kong Mony said his faction’s steering committee had voted to change its name to Khmer Angkor Party. He acknowledged he may lose votes in the elections as a result of the change, which he said he has yet to publicize. But he vowed not to give up the battle for the name of the KNP, which is still being pursued in the courts.
“If we win the case, we will use the KNP name,” Kong Mony added.
Each party has also been forced to abandon the old KNP logo. Kong Mony has chosen the image of a virgin girl—to symbolize purity, he said.
Sam Rainsy has opted for the image of a lighted candle, a traditional symbol of hope.