A day after the CPP-controlled National Assembly passed legislation allowing the government to suspend political rivals over vaguely worded offenses, opposition CNRP lawmakers on Tuesday visited jailed activists and vowed not to be cowed by new threats.
CNRP lawmakers Mu Sochua, Ou Chanrath and Cheam Channy visited 15 imprisoned opposition activists and officials at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison, including Kong Raya, who was imprisoned in 2015 over a Facebook post in which he called for a “color revolution.” He is due for release today after serving 18 months behind bars.
Speaking outside the prison, Ms. Sochua said the activists had not been disheartened by the resignation of longtime opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who is both exiled and facing nine years in prison if he were to return to the country.
“They sent the message to us that even though President Sam Rainsy resigned from the party, he will never leave from their hearts. They are still strong,” Ms. Sochua said. “As patriots, their will and ideals are still high.”
Despite facing new threats from the amendments to the Law on Political Parties, which prevents convicted criminals from leading parties and allows the courts to dissolve parties for a range of vaguely worded offenses, Ms. Sochua vowed that the opposition would not be subdued.
“We will walk from step to step to strengthen democracy,” she said. “We will never retreat under any condition.”
Mr. Chanrath said he had no concerns with being linked to Mr. Raya’s call for a color revolution, calls for which the CPP has deemed illegal despite the fact that the phrase is widely understood to describe a peaceful political movement.
“I think it’s his personal will. It’s his individual idea. It doesn’t mean individual issues would be linked,” he said. “We’re not worried about that. If they…want to destroy the party, they could do it, but we are standing on a legal foundation.”
Despite being expected to take part in the visit, Kem Sokha, the CNRP’s acting president, backed out because he was “meeting with foreign diplomatic officials,” said Muth Chantha, the head of his cabinet.