Roughly 100 disgruntled members of the Sam Rainsy Party from Kompong Cham and Kompong Thom provinces on Saturday protested outside party headquarters where the group’s annual congress was held.
The rally was led by former Sam Rainsy Party members Pen Vanno, Hak Chan Sokhom and former Funcinpec parliamentarian Ros Hean—who all were removed from the party last year.
“The reason we are here is that we come to join the Sam Rainsy Party congress to find justice for ourselves,” said Ros Hean. “Our removal by the [Sam Rainsy] party was not fair.
“And we all want to join the congress to [join] democratic changes in the party’s leadership. What certain party leaders have done are not very democratic, but like communists,” he said.
The three were expelled from the party last year after disputes with party leaders and the decision by the party’s steering committee that they broke party rules.
The group’s repeated efforts to enter the party congress were thwarted by guards as Sam Rainsy delivered a speech inside to more than 1,000 participants.
More than 70 of the protesters, along with the ousted members, eventually were allowed to join the congress but said they were “cheated” out of entry for too long.
The party congress, however, went without further glitches before it ended on Sunday.
Sam Rainsy and Kong Korm were re-elected as president and deputy president of the party, as Eng Chhay Eang, a parliamentarian and the acting secretary-general, was formally elected as secretary-general.
An additional 14 members were added to the existing 34-member party steering committee, and all 48 were approved by the congress.
Addressing others who wanted to join the steering committee, Sam Rainsy said: “Right now, we only elected 48 members….We will select more step by step.
“We have to be careful in selection to find loyal and capable members in order to ensure our party’s stability toward success in the coming general elections,” Sam Rainsy said.
Party lawmaker Sith Ybrahim appeared unsettled that he was not selected for the committee.
“It’s not fair for me, because I have actively helped the party for a long time, especially in the Muslim community, to get support,” he said. Despite his unease, he said he would “fight for democracy along with the president [Sam Rainsy]. We won’t oppose the party like the others.”
The two-day congress kicked off with a rousing speech Saturday morning by Sam Rainsy, who outlined the party’s positions in 12 points:
• Alleviate poverty, which is “directly related to corruption.”
• Stop the destruction of the country’s natural resources.
• Foster good governance and emphasize the “need for rule of law, transparency and accountability.”
• Build infrastructure, “especially in the fields of health and education.”
• End “violence and immorality.”
• Resolve land disputes arising “from powerful confiscation of land from weak and poor farmers.”
• “Manage the economy and… attract foreign investments for job creation.”
• Address the “inadequate salaries of civil servants.”
• Respect factory workers’ rights.
• Secure a trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders complying with “the wishes of the people.”
• Prepare for the commune elections “to make democracy vibrant at the grass roots.”
• Reform the education system.