A local advocacy group for Khmer Rouge regime survivors is seeking to replace its president, Chum Mey, for politicizing the organization’s work by leading a large demonstration in Phnom Penh on Sunday against opposition leader Kem Sokha, according to a statement released by the group.
Mr. Mey called for the rally to demand that Mr. Sokha, acting president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), apologize for allegedly claiming that Vietnam fabricated evidence that the Khmer Rouge imprisoned and tortured thousands of people at Tuol Sleng prison.
One of the few people to survive Tuol Sleng prison, Mr. Mey has insisted that the organization of which he is president, the Victims Association of Democratic Kampuchea, was not involved in his demonstration against Mr. Sokha.
Mr. Mey, who also said the government was not behind his rally, gave Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP a ringing endorsement during the protest, while local government authorities supplied both transportation and banners to those who took part on Sunday.
In a statement dated Saturday and obtained Monday, the Victims Association, best known in Khmer as Ksaem Ksan, said Mr. Mey’s actions were endangering the group’s commitment to remaining politically neutral.
“This action by Mr. Mey runs counter to the spirit of the Association, whose aim is to seek justice for victims via the court of law, to alleviate their suffering, to unite the motherland and to oppose any attempt to divide the country,” the association said in the statement, endorsed by nine senior members, not including Mr. Mey.
“Ksaem Ksan is obliged to avoid engaging in politics and to remain neutral in all circumstances,” the statement adds. “Therefore, the executive committee of Ksaem Ksan asks Mr. Mey to please reconsider his position for the sake of keeping alive the fraternity that until now has bound all Ksaem Ksan members.”
The statement goes on to say that the association will convene a general assembly meeting to vote on a new president to replace Mr. Mey but does not say when the vote will take place.
None of the nine association officials who signed the statement could be reached for comment.
The 83-year-old Mr. Mey said Monday that he had no intention of resigning voluntarily, but would not put up a fight if the other executive committee members vote him out.
“If I am toppled by a vote during the association’s congress, I would be happy to leave,” he said, adding that he would also donate $400 to his former colleagues on his departure.
Mr. Mey, who worked as a mechanic for the government for 14 years and now works for CPP Senator and business tycoon Mong Reththy, continued to maintain that the government had no part in Sunday’s rally.
The CNRP, in a statement of its own on Monday, repeated its position that Mr. Sokha never accused Vietnam of fabricating the crimes at Tuol Sleng and that the acting party president fully acknowledged that the Khmer Rouge was responsible.
The CNRP has accused the government of doctoring the recording of Mr. Sokha that sparked the controversy and of using Mr. Mey as a foil to organize Sunday’s rally, which the government denies.