Four of the top officials from charismatic radio personality Mam Sonando’s new Beehive Social Democratic Party, including a deputy leader, have filed a court complaint requesting a temporary injunction against the party’s operations until corruption claims are investigated.
The party held its inaugural congress a month ago today but has already been rocked by infighting between its two deputy leaders after one claimed that the other had led a group of supporters on a trip to Sihanoukville to convince them to join another minor opposition party.
In the latest conflict, Heang Rithy, the deputy leader who made that claim, filed a complaint with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on October 6 saying that Mr. Sonando had been siphoning money donated to the party.
“We, Heang Rithy, the deputy leader, Nhem Vanthorn, the secretary-general, Heang Kim Soeun, the deputy secretary-general, and Ou Chanphalla, the deputy director of finance…request a temporary injunction against the Beehive party to stop any political action,” Mr. Rithy wrote.
“We would like to inform the court director that all the party’s expenses from the start of the party up until now have been managed by Mr. Mam Sonando himself, which contradicts the Beehive party’s statute under Article 32.”
In an interview Thursday, Mr. Rithy said he could not stand by and watch as Mr. Sonando took money intended for printing party T-shirts and hats, an action he said could land the entire party leadership in prison.
“All revenue from donors and from members must go through a temporary committee…and all donations have gone through his hand and pockets,” Mr. Rithy said.
“I will not participate with him and spend time with him in prison because this issue concerns spending finances without transparency, so it relates to corruption.”
Mr. Sonando said by telephone that because his party had only been operating for a short period, and because Mr. Rithy had been working so closely with him, the deputy leader ought to be more specific in his claims of corruption.
“The party has only been established for less than one month and if he makes allegations against me over corruption, he has to know where I got the money from, what I spent that money on and what I bought,” Mr. Sonando said, adding that the party did not, in fact, have money for him to embezzle.
“The party does not even have one riel,” he said. “Our general assembly was carried out by borrowing a few thousand [dollars] and there is no revenue. I don’t know how disappointed or angry he feels, but he has the right to sue.”
“But if he files a lawsuit without [evidence], I will sue him back. This is serious,” he said. “If he speaks foolishly, [the party] will punish him.”