The leader of Cambodia’s now-dissolved opposition party called for “genuine reconciliation” amid a political stalemate in the Southeast Asian nation in a message he delivered on the eve of the new year from his home in Phnom Penh, where he is being held in detention ahead of a trial for “treason.”
Kem Sokha, president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), said in a post to his Facebook page on Monday that he hopes all Cambodians can “attain real peace and progress in accordance with democratic principles, starting with genuine reconciliation” in 2019, and that his countrymen refrain from viewing one another “as enemies.”
“I also wish the new year to begin with a new chapter of history marking the eradication of two forms of chronic and epidemic diseases: oppression, intimidation and violence; and hatred and resentfulness—especially in the form of labeling, insulting and defaming one another.”
Kem Sokha was arrested in September 2017 on charges of “treason” and the Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP two months later for its alleged role in a plot to topple Cambodia’s government.
Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) overwhelmingly won a July 29 election widely criticized as unfree and unfair because of the crackdown on the opposition that left the CPP with no viable challenger, as well as a number of restrictions on NGOs and the independent media in the lead up to the ballot.
Since the election, Hun Sen has reversed course on several policies seen as limiting democracy, in what observers say is part of a bid to reduce international pressure on his regime, but the CNRP remains banned.
While Kem Sokha has been granted bail, he remains under house arrest, is barred from meeting with CNRP officials or foreigners, and cannot speak at or host any rallies or political activities.
Earlier this month, Sam Rainsy, the acting president of the CNRP who is living in self-imposed exile to avoid a string of politically motivated convictions, vowed to return to Cambodia before March 2019 to fight for democracy.
Hun Sen has pledged to have him arrested on his arrival.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.