Kong Korm, a former foreign minister who has been president of the legacy Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) since its namesake left to lead the CNRP as a united opposition party in 2012, announced his retirement Monday.
Writing on Facebook, Mr. Korm said he is retiring and not defecting to the ruling party, where his political career began as an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen when he was the foreign minister in 1979.
“For this request to retire and step down as an opposition leader, please do not be confused or fall for the deception of others about me,” said Mr. Korm, 74.
“I will surely continue to share in the happiness and suffering of the Cambodian people and youth to rescue the nation…until the end of my life.”
Mr. Korm, who could not be reached for further comment, is presently in Bangkok visiting his son, CNRP lawmaker Kong Saphea, who was beaten by pro-CPP protesters last week and is now in the hospital.
Fellow SRP Senator Chep Kim Eang said Mr. Korm’s plan to retire had been long known within opposition circles, and that he would be replaced after a vote at an SRP congress later this year.
“The reason for his retirement is firstly due to his old age and secondly that he wants to give a chance to the younger generation who are full of energy and have the capacity to lead the country,” he said.
Mr. Kim Eang said that Mr. Korm’s decision was not linked to the beating of his son last week.
“He’s never succumbed to any threat or injustice that has occurred in our country,” he said.
Mr. Korm was appointed as foreign minister in December 1986 and served until December 1987.
He joined the SRP when it was created in 1995 and served as its leader after its 2012 merger with Kem Sokha’s Human Rights Party in order to allow the party to keep its Senate seats.