Social Media Starlet Launches Campaign for Kem Sokha to Step Down

Opposition celebrity-turned-anti-Kem Sokha crusader Thy Sovantha on Friday launched a campaign to collect 1 million thumbprints on a petition demanding that the embattled CNRP vice president step down over a sex scandal.

The social media starlet announced the petition drive during a press conference at the Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh in collaboration with three newly-formed minor political parties: the Cambodian Liberty Party, the Khmer United Great Nations Party and the Khmer for Khmer Party.

(Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
(Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“If you vote for the CNRP, it means supporting a cheap and sexually-addicted person and supporting the act of adultery,” said Ms. Sovantha, who rose to fame in 2013 due to her front-and-center participation in anti-government rallies—and the glamorous photographs of herself she uploaded to her Facebook page.

“Because the CNRP’s goal and the CNRP’s supporters’ will is, as I had declared, a goal for change, to change the government and let the CNRP lead the [country], so a number of CNRP leaders have not yet changed themselves, so they could not change the country for good.”

Ms. Sovantha is suing Mr. Sokha, the CNRP vice president, for allegedly defaming her in a series of audio recordings that were anonymously leaked in late March and purportedly feature the CNRP vice president sweet-talking his mistress.

The government has launched a sweeping crackdown on the opposition and human rights activists in recent weeks, much of which revolves around Mr. Sokha’s alleged extramarital affair and a supposed conspiracy to cover it up.

Activists from human rights group Adhoc, an opposition commune chief and official from the National Election Committee have been arrested as part of a convoluted investigation employing both the Anti-Corruption Unit and the anti-terror police.

Mr. Sokha has also been repeatedly harangued at public outings by a group of students led by Srey Chamroeun, a pro-government activist who suddenly emerged from obscurity during the scandal and was out in support of Ms. Sovantha’s petition yesterday.

“If His Excellency Kem Sokha was just a coffee seller, I would not care,” he said at yesterday’s press conference.

“But Kem Sokha is an acting leader of the CNRP, a lawmaker that a number of people across the country supported. So if he has committed immoral activities—corruption, involvement in prostitution —I cannot accept a leader like him.”

CNRP lawmaker and party spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday he would not dignify Ms. Sovantha’s campaign with a response.

“We have a lot of things to do that are important national issues,” he said.

(Additional reporting by David Boyle)

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