Kem Sokha: ‘I Have Stopped Having Any Connection With Sam Rainsy’

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Kem Sokha outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on June 15, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)
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Kem Sokha clearly announced in a Phnom Penh court on Wednesday that he had no connection with CNRP co-founder Sam Rainsy anymore, marking the most clear fissure between the two opposition figures.

Sokha was at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday for a hearing in his prolonged treason trial. As prosecutor Plang Sophal questioned Sokha, Sophal pointed to a comment from Sokha from a prior hearing where the opposition leader stated that he did not associate with people with bad intentions.

Sokha then named Sam Rainsy and said their pairing existed no more.

“I have stopped having any connection with Sam Rainsy anymore. The words of Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha as the same person no longer exist,” he said.

The opposition leader then pointed to Rainsy criticizing as a “big mistake” Sokha’s decision to not vote in the commune election earlier this month. Sokha added that it was evident that he did not support or participate in Rainsy’s unsuccessful return to Cambodia and even asked his supporters to stay away.

“If I had political rights, I would dare to have a press conference,” he said, referring to his intentions to publicly denounce Rainsy. “Any bad person, please go away from me. I also thank the prosecutor that asked me about this here.”

The exchange follows more subtle comments from Sokha distancing himself from Rainsy.

On May 26, Sokha said in court he would not not be friends with those who “harmed the interests of the nation.” He did not mention Rainsy but the criticism echoed those made by the ruling CPP against the exiled CNRP leader.

In January, when the trial resumed after months of delays, Sokha sat in court and was upbeat about a potential reconciliation.

“I believe that there will be a solution. Even the ruling party, samdech also wants national reconciliation,” he said at the time, using an honorific for Hun Sen.

Last November was the first time Sokha distanced himself from Rainsy. In a Facebook post, Sokha again said he and Rainsy were no longer the same person and that the exiled CNRP leader and other party colleagues had drifted from the party’s principles by supporting the Candlelight Party. This text was posted days after the Candlelight Party held a party congress. 

At the time, Kem Monovithya, Sokha’s exiled daughter, made comments that clearly illustrated the rift between the CNRP’s two factions.

“It’s been an ugly divide, one that is filled with disinformation and libels from the Sam Rainsy camp against Kem Sokha, his family and former HRP officials,” she said. “Sam Rainsy has been a narcissistic, abusive, gaslighting, sociopathic partner to Kem Sokha.”

Correction: The date of the trial hearing was incorrect. It has been changed to Wednesday.

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