Political Opposition Leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha Spar

Adding to their growing personal friction, SRP President Sam Rainsy on Thursday called Hu­man Rights Party President Kem Sokha “shameless” in his political am­bitions and recommended that he scrap them.

Without naming Kem Sokha directly, Sam Rainsy referred to the leader of a new political party who previously failed to win a law­maker position in the 1998 national elections.

“If I were him, I would resign from politics,” Sam Rainsy said by telephone. “People who get voted out of parliament but persist in political careers are “shameless,” he said.

Kem Sokha—who in 1998 ran unsuccessfully for a lawmaker position with the now defunct Son Sann Party—responded that Sam Rainsy is afraid of losing votes to the HRP. Kem Sokha also described Sam Rainsy as deluded and envious of the HRP’s popularity.

“Sam Rainsy is not only concerned—he is also jealous,” Kem Sokha said. “Sam Rainsy dreamt that only he improves democracy. He is wrong. Many people can do it,” Kem Sokha added. “He is suffering.”

Both Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha risk alienating their supporters by their increasingly public distaste for each other, said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

Voters will also likely be confused by the fact that they are focusing their criticism on each other rather than on the government, as is the traditional role of opposition parties, Koul Panha added.

Sam Rainsy made his comments one day before his party is due to begin internal provincial and municipal congresses to elect SRP councilors across the country.

The SRP was slated to hold the first congress this morning in Kompong Chhnang province. Elected councilors will later vote for the party president in a national congress, Sam Rainsy said.

“The party has bottom-up re­form,” he said, adding that if he is not elected by the national congress, he will step down as SRP president.


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