Opposition leader Kem Sokha told supporters on the campaign trail on Thursday that exiled former CNRP president Sam Rainsy may be able to return home and imprisoned party officials and activists could be released if the CNRP assumes power from the ruling party.
“Do you remember in past years? I was standing here, holding hands with Mr. Sam Rainsy” while campaigning, Mr. Sokha told hundreds of supporters in Banteay Meanchey province.
“So, what should you do?” Mr. Sokha asked the crowd. “Go to vote for the CNRP to win the election. Will you?”
Mr. Rainsy, who lives in exile in France, resigned from the party leadership in February ahead of the passage of a law that would allow for the dissolution of political parties led by someone convicted of crimes in Cambodia.
The government later passed amendments to the law on political parties, which could have resulted in the CNRP’s termination due to Mr. Rainsy’s criminal convictions.
Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said on Thursday Mr. Rainsy could return to the country if he resolved the legal complaints against him or received a royal pardon.
Addressing supporters, Mr. Sokha referenced the 16 opposition officials and activists in prison—including senior CNRP official Meach Sovannara—who are among 25 the rights NGO Licadho calls “political prisoners.”
“Do you want to see Meach Sovannara released from prison?” Mr. Sokha said. “If you want [that], what should you do?”
“Go to vote,” the supporters responded and cheered.
Mr. Sovannara is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence after being found guilty of “leading an insurrection,” in a case critics have called politically motivated.
Mr. Sokha also said his party wanted peace for all Cambodians.
“The CNRP’s outlook is peace, a real peace that all people want. It is not peace for only the winners, and the losers sleep in jail,” he said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan called Mr. Sokha’s comments “demagoguery” that violated court procedure.
“The political party or winning party has no right to make decisions instead of the court,” Mr. Eysan said. “It’s impossible, and one more thing is he won’t win the election.”