The leader of a U.S.-based group that helped finance the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s 2013 election campaign said Tuesday that it would protest against Prime Minister Hun Sen during his weekend trip to the U.N. in New York by rekindling the opposition party’s “Hun Sen Must Go” protests.
Mr. Hun Sen is scheduled to speak at a U.N. summit on Saturday, and Touch Vibol, the president of the Cambodia National Rescue Foundation, said he organized the rally outside U.N. headquarters to call for it to intervene in Cambodia.
“We want the U.N. to initiate investigations into the alleged human rights crimes committed by the Cambodian ruling party. There are serious abuses of human rights in Cambodia, and everyone knows that,” Mr. Vibol said.
“We also want the U.N. to monitor the 2018 election to make sure they are free and fair. Hun Sen has repeatedly said there will be war if he loses the election, so we urge the U.N. to ensure a peaceful transition of power after the election.”
Yet Mr. Vibol stressed that the Cambodia National Rescue Foundation had no organizational links to the CNRP, despite the similarity of their names and the group’s recycling of the “Hun Sen Must Go” slogan that dominated the CNRP’s 2013 protests.
“In 2012 and 2013, we raised funds to help democracy in Cambodia. Back then, it was a movement to support [CNRP leaders] Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy to support democracy. This protest is not organized by them,” Mr. Vibol said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said it was not the first time Cambodian-Americans had protested against Mr. Hun Sen during one of his trips to the U.N., and that the turnout for such events tended to be low.
“They are formerly from the Khmer Republic of Lon Nol, so they have maintained their anger against the CPP,” Mr. Eysan said. “It is nothing strange, since brothers and sisters abroad do not know about Cambodia’s present internal situation well.”
Mr. Vibol denied that his group was made up of ex-Lon Nol officials.
“It’s not true. We are just Cambodian-Americans. Most of us are the younger generation and we are coming out to express our concerns about human rights in Cambodia,” he said.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said that even if the Cambodia National Rescue Foundation had provided money to the CNRP in the 2013 election, it no longer funded the party. He said if the organization held an anti-Hun Sen rally it would have no impact on his present rapprochement with the premier.
“The Cambodian National Rescue Foundation is totally different to the Cambodian National Rescue Party. There has been confusion in the past,” Mr. Rainsy said. “The CNRP does not get money from that organization. We have no links.
“They live in a democratic country, in the U.S., so they can do whatever they want within U.S. law. Some of them are CNRP supporters, but we have countless supporters and cannot dictate things to them, especially when they are abroad.”