“Khmer for Khmer” leader Kem Ley said Wednesday that the controversial new political network will next month convene 150 members for an official founding congress and that the participants will ultimately decide whether to create a “parallel” party to run in the 2017 commune elections.
Mr. Ley, a political commentator and social researcher by training, has been leading a diverse team of civil society leaders, union officials and youth activists around the country, holding public forums with voters dissatisfied with the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP.
Since the group’s first meeting on October 19, Mr. Ley has denied claims from the CNRP that the group’s rhetoric of reform is a precursor of a new opposition party that will launch in time for the commune elections scheduled for February 2017.
On Wednesday, Mr. Ley said that in December, Khmer for Khmer will formally become a special program within his Citizen Action Network (CAN), an association of NGOs he said was already registered with the Interior Ministry.
Many members of the new reform network are already members of CAN, which has a functioning board of directors and secretariat, Mr. Ley explained.
“In December, on the 19th or 20th, we will launch ‘Khmer for Khmer’ under CAN and we will launch with 150 members,” he said. “The 150 members will decide whether we keep just a network…or to develop a parallel party.”
“It depends on the reforms of the other parties. We will develop standard operating principles for intra-party democracy. If the CNRP and CPP and Funcinpec reform and are good democratic competition, we will not have a party.”
Mr. Ley said his group’s main task now was to develop a document with 10 indicators voters can use to evaluate their local government, while the next step will be to begin work on a three-year strategic plan for the group.
“Now we have no plans to mobilize funds—we use our own funds —but we will have fees and expand our network of members,” he added. “Members will contribute money and we will also mobilize funds from development partners.”