Returning to Action in Provinces, Kem Sokha Looks for Unity

Kem Sokha, the acting president of the opposition CNRP, began a nationwide tour over the weekend marking his first foray into the provinces for party activities since being taken out of action for most of last year by a government-driven court case.

Mr. Sokha was holed up for seven months in CNRP headquarters to evade the case—based on leaked recordings with an alleged mistress—and only emerged last month after being granted a royal pardon at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

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Acting CNRP President Kem Sokha speaks to party officials during a meeting in Preah Sihanouk province on Sunday, in a photograph posted to his Facebook page.

For the first time in months, Mr. Sokha paid a visit to grassroots party leaders on Sunday, traveling to Preah Sihanouk province to discuss looming local elections in June.

“This meeting was focused on choosing commune candidates for the commune election and the composition of the executive committee,” Mr. Sokha said in a Facebook post.

The CNRP, formed by a merger between two opposition parties in 2012, still has much of its commune-level organization split between the legacy parties founded by Mr. Sokha and opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who remains in exile.

When selecting candidates, party leaders have said they must navigate the tensions between members whose loyalties can still be divided.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that having one of the opposition’s top leaders back in action was a significant turnaround for the party’s provincial network.

“He hasn’t visited them in so long,” Mr. Sovann said.

The CNRP hopes to start holding public forums for Mr. Sokha to engage with voters, but remains wary that his freedom could be threatened again, Mr. Sovann said.

“We must be very, very cautious. I don’t think that the ruling party has the intention to normalize the political situation,” Mr. Sovann said, noting that a recently planned meeting between the parties was canceled by the CPP.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan could not be reached.

Mr. Sokha plans to meet party officials in Kep and Kampot provinces today, followed by Kompong Chhnang and Pursat provinces on Wednesday and Battambang and Banteay Mean- chey provinces on Thursday, according to the CNRP.,

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