The CNRP on Thursday dismissed the authenticity of a pair of letters claiming to be from opposition youth and overseas supporters rebuking Kem Monovithya, the party’s deputy public affairs director, over a series of social media messages mocking CNRP President Sam Rainsy.
Ms. Monovithya, the daughter of CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha, has taken to Twitter over the past week to criticize Mr. Rainsy’s decision to live abroad to avoid a prison sentence widely seen as politically motivated, and his offer to return and go to jail in exchange for the release of other “political prisoners.”
“Somebody watches too much movies on their free time. If you respect the audience you at least make your lies sound believable. #insult #sad,” she wrote in one tweet about the prisoner swap proposal.
A letter purporting to be from the CNRP’s youth wing that began circulating on Facebook in the past few days—and was published without qualification by the government-aligned Fresh News website—calls on the party to remove Ms. Monovithya from her post.
“The arrogance and extremely bad behavior of Kem Monovithya has created the appearance of a split within the CNRP with her attacks on Twitter insulting party leader Sam Rainsy,” says the letter, which bears no names.
“So we the CNRP youth announce that we are absolutely against what she said and we request the CNRP Permanent Committee and Disciplinary Committee to remove Kem Monovithya from her position and all roles as severe punishment for her crazy acts and contempt of the leader Sam Rainsy.”
Hing Soksan, the outgoing head of the CNRP’s youth wing, said his organization had nothing to do with the letter.
“It is fake,” he said on Thursday. “It was not made by the CNRP youth movement. I know because I am the head of the movement.”
Mr. Soksan said he personally believed the CNRP could still thrive with Mr. Rainsy out of the country, but that nevertheless other party members were free to express their own opinions.
“It’s a democratic culture,” he said of the opposition. “She just criticized what Sam Rainsy said…. And she said she did not comment on behalf of the CNRP. She commented personally.”
A second letter that also appeared online recently—claiming to be from CNRP supporters living abroad— also rebukes Ms. Monovithya and urges the party to take unspecified “action.”
The letter could not be authenticated. CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith said that it, like the other, was a fake.
Ms. Monovithya said she was not worried that criticism of CNRP leaders coming from within the party would sow disunity.
“CNRP official position on leadership criticism is reflected in our MPs denouncing the new rules at the National Assembly to penalize any member who has ‘inappropriate’ behavior such as mocking the [Assembly] president,” she said. “CNRP is not afraid of what we preach.”
The Assembly’s CPP-dominated permanent committee on Wednesday approved new penalties against lawmakers for certain actions, including insulting CPP Assembly President Heng Samrin. The CNRP said the penalties were politically motivated and aimed at trying to muzzle the opposition.
Last week, Ms. Monovithya denied on Twitter that the party’s two leaders—Mr. Sokha and Mr. Rainsy—were going their separate ways.
“Absolutely no break. No power struggle between SR/KS. But need better accountability n adjustments in strategies,” she tweeted in response to a debate over her critical comments.
“Hiding behind the word unity to protect party leader from criticism is similar to govt using the word stability to stop dissenting voices,” she said in another tweet.
Whatever the provenance of the letters, their sentiments have been echoed by a number of opposition supporters online.
“I hope brothers and sisters who are the great family of the opposition will not mind her,” outspoken CNRP activist Chham Channy said on Facebook, attributing Ms. Monovithya’s “crazy talk” to a mental illness.
Yim Sovann, another CNRP spokesman, has repeatedly dismissed criticism from Ms. Monovithya, and said the fake letters did not concern him.
“It is a very small issue so we don’t need to pay attention to it,” he said. “I don’t pay attention to what she said.”
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter and Colin Meyn)