What’s a Decent Outcome For Cambodia’s Opposition At the Upcoming Election?

For a party living under the constant fear of crackdown or dissolution, it might be wise to downplay its chances at the July poll.

It’s been a rough few months for the Candlelight Party, now Cambodia’s second-largest party. Several of its senior leaders have been hit by trumped-up defamation lawsuits from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the National Election Commission. Thach Setha, its vice president, was detained on January 16 for apparently writing bad checks. On January 31, Kong Korm, a senior adviser, stepped down after the CPP filed a lawsuit against him for $500,000 and threatened to confiscate his home. A public apology saw the CPP drop its charges.

But the Candlelight Party was given a much-needed bump after Rong Chhun, an experienced and outspoken activist, said also on January 31 that he would run for the party at July’s parliamentary election. He’ll bring some much-needed panache to the outfit. And give ear to a statement he made at a press conference. “We believe that some people who right now are standing on the sidelines or unsure of whom to support or are awaiting the return of the [now-defunct] CNRP will see my presence as a candidate with Candlelight as the sign they have been waiting for and they will throw their support behind us,” he said.

Indeed, Cambodia’s opposition movement has been in limbo since the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the most potent opposition force in years, was forcibly dissolved by the government in 2017 on the patently bogus charge of plotting a coup. For a time, it seemed that maybe the CNRP could stage a comeback. Or, having been defanged, Hun Sen might take pity and allow it back (as he usually does with individual opposition politicians). And by 2021, it was also clear that the two wings of the party (it had formed as a merger between Sam Rainsy’s eponymous party, now the Candlelight Party, and Kem Sokha’s Human Rights Party) were at an impasse, leading to mud-slinging from both sides.

In full: https://thediplomat.com/2023/02/whats-a-decent-outcome-for-cambodias-opposition-at-the-upcoming-election/

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