Opposition leader Kem Sokha on Wednesday maintained that a majority of Cambodians are yearning for political change, a claim a ruling party spokesman branded a lie.
In a three-minute video uploaded to his Facebook page ahead of Khmer New Year, Mr. Sokha said he believed the Cambodian people were hungry for “positive change.”
“So, I call upon all Cambodian leaders and politicians, despite having different political affiliations, to please contest the forthcoming elections by focusing on each party’s political platforms peacefully in order to build a better future for our country and people,” said Mr. Sokha, who arrived in the Australian capital Canberra on Wednesday following a tour around New Zealand to meet politicians and CNRP supporters.
The speech comes as the CNRP sits in a precarious position ahead of crucial commune elections in June. The Interior Ministry has refused to acknowledge the opposition’s election of three new deputies after the February resignation of former party president Sam Rainsy. The government claims the process violated the party’s own bylaws, while the opposition has accused the ruling party of playing dirty ahead of elections.
The CNRP also recently abandoned its elections slogan, “Change commune chiefs who serve the party with commune chiefs who serve the people,” after the CPP threatened to sue for incitement.
The ruling party claimed earlier this year that the word “change” was a threat to national unity, with Defense Minister Tea Banh suggesting the word was a symbol of revolution. CPP spokesman Sok Eysan on Wednesday dismissed Mr. Sokha’s suggestion that the populace was eager for change, comparing the CNRP president to his now-exiled predecessor.
“The opposition party of Sam Rainsy’s generation and now Kem Sokha’s generation—as the head of the opposition party—they always say something contradicting the truth,” Mr. Eysan said.
“Thus, Mr. Sokha saying that most people want the change means that only a minority number wanted change,” he said.
In a claim commonly used by the CPP, Mr. Eysan said the Cambodian people were satisfied with the performance of the government because it brought peace to Cambodia after decades of war almost 20 years ago.
“I think that the most important thing here is the fact that the government of the ruling CPP has achieved many things and people are enjoying peace,” he said.