We Wage Peace, Not War, Kem Sokha Says

CNRP President Kem Sokha on Tuesday said his party had only peaceful intentions for change, rebutting repeated CPP claims that an opposition party election victory would bring war to Cambodia.

“We are absolutely not making a change through a coup, war, revolution or other forms of violence,” Mr. Sokha said at CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh.

cam photo no war channa
CNRP President Kem Sokha speaks to opposition members at the party’s headquarters in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Opposition party members have no experience in combat, no guns with which to shoot, and no conflict with other Cambodians or its neighbors, Mr. Sokha said.

“We do not go to fight, to beat or argue with anyone, but we are walking to the election…for positive change.”

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan, however, said the opposition’s platform was fueled by a desire for vengeance and drew from the Khmer Rouge’s playbook, citing what he asserted were repeated claims by former party president Sam Rainsy that the opposition would redistribute land from the rich to the poor.

“Everybody can see from this political message that war will unavoidably occur,” he wrote over the messaging app Telegram. “Now the new party president said there will be no war if they win the election. It’s just some words to trick people.”

Mr. Hun Sen regularly reminds voters that he and the CPP brought peace to Cambodia after decades of war, and that his rivals would undo this work—a selling point analysts say resonates less with younger voters who have no memory of past violence.

As recently as Monday, the prime minister took to his election season doomsaying around his allegedly war-mongering rivals.

“In the future, of course, there are some people who want peace and to keep peace to ensure development, but there are some who want to bring conflict in relationships with neighboring countries,” Mr. Hun Sen said at the inauguration of a new bridge in Kandal province connecting Vietnam and Cambodia.

“I think that all people living along the border want to have peace and development, not war,” he added.

The opposition has repeatedly drawn attention to alleged Vietnamese border incursions into Cambodia and the political connections between Hanoi and the CPP, sometimes with fiery, racist undertones that mark one of its more potent political aces.

But Mr. Sokha appeared to discourage party members from such language on Tuesday.

“We do not consider any country to be our enemy, especially neighboring countries, because we will have mutual respect with decency—respect for sovereignty, respect for territorial integrity,” he said.

Mr. Sokha also instructed CNRP candidates and members not to use “insulting and racially discriminating words” during the commune electoral campaign that will run from May 20 to June 2.

“There are some roads that others can walk, but we can’t; and there are some activities that others can do but we can’t; and there are some words that others can say, but we can’t,” he said.

Mr. Eysan said this was another piece of deception from Mr. Sokha.

“Ironically, Kem Sokha said he was unable to speak despite the fact that he was speaking” at the headquarters, he said. “Nobody bans him from speaking and there is no intimidation against him. He can speak freely.”

Mr. Sokha “performs political activities freely, without fear, but says he’s in fear,” Mr. Eysan said. “So it’s obviously a trick.”

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