Two former CNRP lawmakers on Thursday announced a new political party, the Cambodia Nation Love Party, prompting accusations that they were acting in the ruling party’s interests.
Chiv Kata and Kang Kimhak, former parliamentarians for the dissolved opposition party, were among a small group of banned CNRP politicians who applied for “rehabilitation” from the government last year. They held a press conference in March defending their decision, and pledged to work to demand the release of CNRP president Kem Sokha, who was under de facto house arrest at the time.
On Thursday, they announced their new party at a press conference at Phnom Penh’s Sunway Hotel, saying they had submitted their application to the Interior Ministry to have the party registered.
“What is our goal? We will demand change through free and fair elections. If we are democrats and love the nation, one day we will be able to talk and move forward toward the same goal,” Kata told the conference.
The party would be funded by the founders as well as overseas supporters, he said.
Kimhak said the party had other supporters among senior members of the main opposition CNRP — which was dissolved in November 2017 — but they were keeping their identities secret for now.
A statement from the new party appealed to the government to open a space for democracy, release Sokha, and do whatever it takes to keep duty-free trade with the E.U. The E.U. is reviewing the “Everything But Arms” deal with Cambodia due to political and human rights concerns.
Sokha was arrested in September 2017 on charges of “treason” in a case that is widely seen as political. He was released into house arrest late 2018, and freed in November last year. He remains banned from politics and barred from going abroad.
Political analyst Meas Nee said the new party served the interests of Prime Minister Hun Sen, giving the appearance of a fracturing of opposition support.
“I think Mr. Hun Sen wants this,” Nee said.
Morn Phalla, former chairman of the CNRP’s Phnom Penh executive committee, agreed.
“I think that this is useless because doing this only fulfills Hun Sen’s ambitions,” said Phalla, who is currently overseas.
He added that he doubted the new party could have much influence on the CNRP’s supporters, who were loyal to the dissolved party’s two co-founders, Sokha and Sam Rainsy.
“They only support the two,” Phalla said.
Sok Eysan, the ruling Cambodia People’s Party spokesman, welcomed the creation of the party. “The CPP welcomes the creation of the new party, including the one by former opposition party activists,” he said. “The ruling party has no worries but instead is happy to have another party compete in elections.”
(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)