Cambodian Center for Human Rights President Kem Sokha announced Sunday that he is considering forming a new political party.
“I look at the possibility, but I have not decide[d] yet,” he said.
Kem Sokha said that he has discussed the possible move with Con-stitutional Council member Son Soubert, political analyst Lao Mong Hay and Beehive Radio owner Mam Sonando, but none of them have made firm decisions on whe-ther to join him if he forms a new party.
Kem Sokha, a former Funcinpec senator, has long been rumored to be planning a return to politics, but had previously denied it.
On Sunday he said that one of the main reasons he was contemplating the move was a lack of democratic principles in other parties. “I think that in Cambodia now, there is no democratic party.”
“Recently, whenever I go somewhere, when I join a forum, the Cambodian people request me to form a party,” he added.
Before making a final decision, Kem Sokha said he needs to as-sess whether the public would prefer him to go into politics or remain in the NGO world.
Son Soubert said that he and Kem Sokha—both former senior members of the now-defunct Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party—have spoken about the possibility of a party for years. But they are still far from deciding on whether to create one, he added.
Lao Mong Hay, who is working as a senior researcher for the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission, could not be reached for comment. Mam Sonando, who served jail time with Kem Sokha following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s crackdown on border-treaty critics in late 2005, also could not be contacted.
SRP leader Sam Rainsy said Kem Sokha has the right to form a party, but that it would be years before it could become a major political force. “There are many steps to follow and many obstacles to overcome.”
Ok Socheat, adviser to Prince Norodom Ranariddh, said he op-posed Kem Sokha’s proposal, as the country already has enough democratic parties.
“I think that all political parties need the [CCHR],” he said. “[Kem Sokha] is a good leader for that.”
Heng Samrin, National Assembly and CPP honorary president, said Kem Sokha is welcome to form a party. But he took issue with Kem Sokha’s claim that existing parties are undemocratic.
“The CPP does everything for democracy, to respect human rights,” he said. “We are doing the work and he is only talking.”
“Even his own people sued him,” Heng Samrin added, referring to lawsuits filed in October by former CCHR employees, who accused Kem Sokha of corruption and defamation. Kem Sokha denies the allegations.