Attendees at a conference of a new political reform association called “Khmer for Khmer,” which met for the first time Sunday, hit back Monday at claims made by a CNRP public affairs officer that the group plans to form a new party to divide the opposition.
Kem Monovithya, the CNRP’s deputy director of public affairs and the daughter of the party’s vice president, Kem Sokha, wrote in a post on her Facebook page on Friday that the group, headed by political analyst Kem Ley, would split the united opposition party.
The group held a conference in Sihanoukville to hammer out the objectives and internal rules of the new association, which they say is only intended to be a network to monitor the country’s two major parties and hold them to account.
Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation president Sar Mora, who attended the conference, said that the creation of a new party had not been discussed, but the CNRP’s shortcomings had.
“We have seen that most of people are very unhappy and disappointed with the CNRP since they don’t see any much improvement after those lawmakers took office at the National Assembly,” he said.
In August, after months of pledging that his party would not join parliament without a fresh election, CNRP President Sam Rainsy led his party’s 55 lawmakers to end their yearlong boycott of their National Assembly seats in exchange for a series of reforms.
“Obviously, their deal with CPP for the creation of new independent NEC [National Election Commission] has yet to be established and their talks are very secretive,” Mr. Mora said.
Moeun Tola, program director for labor affairs at the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), who also attended the conference, said that the CNRP’s democratic credentials had been called into question.
“There was no discussion about forming a political party but we did discuss ‘What is a real democratic party?’” he said. “There were two main things. How to push the current party to be real a democratic party, this means the opposition, the CNRP. And the other one is to push the CPP to have transparent governance.”
Others at the meeting included high-profile student activist Thy Sovantha and civil society leaders Yeng Virak, executive director of CLEC, and Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture.
Ms. Monovithya said in her post on Friday that Mr. Ley’s group would pose as a reform group before forming a political party in 2017.
“When the commune elections come, these groups will create a party on the pretext that the CNRP has not succeeded with reforms,” she wrote.
Mr. Ley said the CNRP should focus on improving its own shortcomings if they are worried about a competitor forming.
“If they acknowledge a new party will break their voice, I think they should strengthen,” he said.
“Do you think the CNRP is a democracy? Everything is decided by Sam Rainsy,” Mr. Ley said. “There are no principles for selecting policies, for selecting the best candidates of the National Assembly, the districts, the commune council; there is no procedure for selecting the permanent committee.”
“We are strengthening democracy,” he added.
Mu Sochua, public affairs director for the CNRP, said Monday that the party did not feel threatened by Mr. Ley’s group.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s just democracy,” Ms. Sochua said.
“People keep saying ‘It’s a split, it’s a split in the CNRP’ and I totally deny this. Whatever civil society wants to do or monitor with their comments, they can do. It builds democracy,” she added.
“As far as the CNRP is concerned, there is no split.”