On the 15th anniversary of the party’s founding, SRP President Sam Rainsy offered his supporters a glimmer of hope yesterday when he promised to return to Cambodia.
Addressing a crowd of about 1,000 provincial and district-level SRP councilors at the party headquarters in Phnom Penh yesterday afternoon, Mr Rainsy said he would soon return from self-imposed exile in Paris.
“The situation in Cambodia will change. I will return to the country soon,” he said.
Mr Rainsy has not been in Cambodia since last year and has since been sentenced to 12 years for uprooting border posts along the frontier with Vietnam and spreading misinformation about the border.
The SRP began life in 1995 as the Khmer Nation Party and took Mr Rainsy’s name after a leadership struggle before the 1998 elections.
Yim Sovann, SRP lawmaker and party spokesman, said Mr Rainsy’s confidence stemmed from the strong international support he had received from foreign lawmakers. Mr Sovann said he expected Mr Rainsy to be back in the country “before the commune elections” in 2012.
He said Mr Rainsy’s exile and a CPP-dominated political climate that restricted essential freedoms made the SRP’s job more difficult.
“Of course we are concerned,” Mr Sovann said when asked if the party was having difficulty representing its constituents in its current situation. “But we are redoubling our efforts.”
“We can see that there are more serious violations of human rights. This is a big concern,” he said.
However Mr Sovann expressed his belief that the political climate in Cambodia would soon change.
“There is a democratic trend in the world and Cambodia cannot stand alone…. Mr Hun Sen and the CPP understand this,” he said.
CPP lawmaker and Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that the problems facing the SRP were of the party’s own making.
“The CPP’s majority in the National Assembly is the will of the people…. The minority should be a professional opposition, but they fail to do their job properly,” he said.
Mr Siphan said the government was not preventing Mr Rainsy from returning.
“The government has nothing against Mr Rainsy coming in or going out of the country, but he is supposed to face his obligations under the court ruling,” he said.