Parties Turn Down Dissident’s Invitation to Talks

A day after returning to Cambodia from years in self-imposed exile, pardoned terrorist Sourn Serey Ratha on Friday outlined the priorities of his newly formed Khmer Power Party (KPP) but admitted that attempts to create a coalition to challenge the ruling CPP in upcoming elections were off to a rough start.

Mr. Serey Ratha—an outspoken dissident who has been labeled a terrorist by the CPP and was convicted in absentia in January of incitement, plotting against the government and obstructing elections—was pardoned at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s request in July and arrived in Phnom Penh on Thursday morning on a flight from Thailand. 

During a press conference at the KPP’s headquarters in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district on Friday, Mr. Serey Ratha wasted no time in deriding the political establishment, noting the tendency of lawmakers to lie to the public.

“The Khmer Power Party has only one medicine: truth,” he told the roughly 20 supporters and 10 reporters who attended the event, which, he admitted, was meant to be a meeting of several fledgling political parties with the aim of uniting them behind the KPP, although none of the parties he invited took him up on the offer.

“If we invite those parties three times, and they still do not come to meet us, we will stop inviting them and will struggle and advocate by ourselves,” Mr. Serey Ra­tha said, adding that the KPP would hold an official party congress on March 18.

Tep Virak, a spokesman for the KPP, said the party had invited five parties to Friday’s event: the League for Democracy Party, the Grassroots Democracy Party, the Khmer Anti-Poverty Party, the Beehive Social Democratic Party and Funcinpec.

Yeng Virak, president of the Grassroots Democracy Party, said that he received an invitation letter from the KPP more than a week ago, but was too preoccupied with his own work to attend.

“Now we are busy strengthening our party’s internal [issues]; we are not thinking about discussions with other parties,” he said.

Mam Sonando, president of the Beehive Social Democratic Party, said he felt his party’s goals were too different from the KPP’s to cooperate.

“We have different ideas, so we cannot work together,” he said, adding that he could not comment further because he was getting a haircut.

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