Original report from Washington
15 July 2008
Political leaders competing against the Cambodian People’s Party have remained divided, competing with each other instead of unifying its voice, a leading human rights official said.
The competing parties need a strong alliance in order to compete with the CPP, said Brad Adams (pictured), Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
“The Cambodian People’s Party is trying to break the opposition party’s voice,” Adams said. “They are trying to persuade the opposition party members or activists by promising to provide positions as government advisers and things like that.”
The competing parties “made plenty of mistakes over the years by competing instead of uniting,” he said.
With less than two weeks remaining in the campaign, leaders of the three main opponents, the Sam Rainsy, Norodom Ranariddh and Human Rights parties, have been unable to come together.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said there were “points of weakness” in other party leaders, such as accusations leveled against Prince Norodom Ranariddh of the sale of Funcinpec’s party headquarters before he assembled his own party, and lawsuits of former employees of Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha.
“We are afraid and unconfident to join with any political parties that have not cleared [such allegations] and don’t have transparency,” Sam Rainsy said.
Kem Sokha denied involvement in corruption and said he already testified at court in cases brought by his former employees.
Sam Rainsy regularly rejected the idea of unification, Kem Sokha said, and neither the opposition nor Norodom Ranariddh’s party have shown an ability to unite.
“If they knew how to unite, then the new party would not have been created,” he said, adding that his party “always welcomed unity.”
Prince Ranariddh is running his self-named party from exile in Kuala Lumpur and faces a prison sentence and fine for breach of trust if he returns. He said by phone recently he had already requested unification with Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, to no avail.
“I’ve been suggesting to Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha since October 2007 the demolition of the Sam Rainsy Party, the Human Rights Party and the Norodom Ranariddh Party, in order to create a large nationalist party,” he said. “I am strongly disappointed, and regret that Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy have ignored my suggestion.”
CPP lawmaker Chiem Yeap, who is a candidate for Prey Veng province, told VOA Khmer recently that all the parties facing the CPP were welcome to unite.
“All the political parties in Cambodia have full rights to join their political parties together,” he said. “But the Cambodian People’s Party is still trying to work, because our people won the election. That is what made Kem Sokha’s party, Norodom Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy to try to pull our credit our honor and our party reputation down.”