Sokha Mocks CPP Over Plan to Steal Int’l Support

Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha has ridiculed a new campaign by the CPP to revitalize the historically weak support for the ruling party among overseas Cambodians, an effort that has included appointing ambassadors as country directors for the party.

Speaking to supporters in the Australian capital of Canberra on Friday night, Mr. Sokha said there was an obvious CPP effort at hand to weaken the widespread and lucrative support for the opposition among Cambodians abroad.

“They know who helps the opposition party—the CNRP—create such a strong force both spiritually and financially, brothers and sisters, and now they are looking toward that strength that is a part of the CNRP,” Mr. Sokha said.

“They have a plan to draw away our brothers and sisters who live abroad from CNRP, and to reduce support for the CNRP,” Mr. Sokha continued, drawing laughs from the crowd.

“They have sent some people, and they can send whoever—I don’t care, people won’t be bought, and we don’t care,” he said. “We believe the CNRP will still win.”

In June, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a directive charging seven new Cambodian ambassadors with leading new CPP committees in each country, with party spokesman Sok Eysan at the time denying any conflict of interest in the arrangement.

The same month, the CPP announced a new effort to gain supporters overseas, putting Hun Manet, Mr. Hun Sen’s eldest son, in charge of a project to win support among youth living abroad and to counter bad press about the ruling party.

Koy Kuong, Cambodia’s new ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, said by telephone Sunday that fewer Cambodian expatriates and students are supporting the opposition today compared to past years.

“In fact, more and more Cambodian people [in Australia] have less and less confidence in them. It is a freedom of political expression. No one forces them to do something, it is just their freedom of political choice,” he said.

Mr. Kuong declined to comment on the type of promotional activities he has carried out as the CPP’s committee leader in Australia.

“You can observe the remarks of Mr. Kem Sokha and you can ask them about that,” Mr. Kuong said. “As I said, I have just come here to do my job as a normal ambassador, and we have to take care of all Cambodians living abroad.

“We come here not to cheat the people for money, we have to help them. Not like the other people: Sometimes they just come here to cheat them to get money for their benefit,” he added.

According to Australia’s Department of Immigration, about 12,000 Cambodians arrived in Australia between April 1975 and June 1986 as part of a special program for refugees fleeing the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese-backed regime that succeeded it.

Australia’s most recent national census in 2011 recorded about 28,000 Cambodian-born people inside the country, with the largest population living in the state of Victoria.

Kong Meng, director of Melbourne’s Wat Khmer and president of the Khmer Community Victoria, said by telephone that he has not seen much recent campaigning by the CPP, and that the CNRP has been more active.

“Most of the people here support the CNRP,” Mr. Meng said. “The CPP has not come much to ask us to support them. It is the CNRP that comes to ask for support. The CPP has the power, so they do not need to ask us for their support,” he said.

“Cambodians at the moment are very tough with the politics in Cambodia because there are a lot of issues about the border and human rights. It is terrible, and when we listen to the radio broadcasts, we are very unhappy.”

Mr. Eysan, the CPP spokesman, confirmed that the party has sent young activists abroad to promote its interests, but denied Mr. Sokha’s claim that they are trying to steal supporters from the opposition.

“If you’re not concerned, why are you raising this?” Mr. Eysan asked of the CNRP vice president.

“He takes pride in himself that he is strong…and what is important is that it is only up to [the CNRP] whether they are breakable or not,” he added.

“The CPP has sent youth activists abroad but they go there to build up the CPP’s forces…and not to break up [the CNRP].”

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