CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha commented Thursday for the first time on the ouster of his personal assistant from the opposition party last week, denying the former official’s claims that he had accused CNRP President Sam Rainsy of corruption.
Lak Sopheap, who remains an assistant to Mr. Sokha in his capacity as National Assembly vice president, was kicked out of the CNRP after publicly claiming that Mr. Rainsy had illicitly received $20 million.
Ms. Sopheap later said she was merely relaying allegations she witnessed Mr. Sokha make at a CNRP meeting.
Arriving at the Phnom Penh International Airport after a two-week trip to Europe to meet expatriate CNRP supporters and raise funds, Mr. Sokha denied ever raising the issue.
“It was Lak Sopheap herself that mentioned it, and it was not me who mentioned it,” Mr. Sokha said. “I just told her to find the truth and the evidence before we said anything, rather than saying something without evidence or truth.”
Mr. Sokha declined to comment further on the removal of Ms. Sopheap, a longtime opposition member who came to the CNRP from Mr. Sokha’s Human Rights Party when it merged with the Sam Rainsy Party.
“I have seen the disciplinary committee’s report and the report follows the party’s statutes and internal rules, but we will think about the report and continue to discuss it with our leaders, and then I can clarify,” he said.
The deputy opposition leader also made a veiled dig at the return of Prince Norodom Ranariddh to the leadership of Funcinpec, offering advice to the royalist party.
“Unite together to serve the Khmer people; do not unite to serve the people who do not serve the people,” Mr. Sokha said.
Mr. Sokha also hit back at claims published in local media this week that Interior Minister Sar Kheng would call him and Mr. Rainsy before parliament to ask about their role in encouraging last year’s nationwide strike of garment workers.
“There is no inviting of National Assembly members. There is only National Assembly members inviting the government,” Mr. Sokha said. “I am in the National Assembly. There’s no need for me to be invited; I can talk.”