Kem Sokha (C) greets supporters during a demonstration at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh, April 24, 2013.
Cambodia’s opposition National Rescue Party (NRP) has dismissed
suggestions by Prime Minister Hun Sen that its delay in submitting a
list of candidates for upcoming national elections underscored a split
within the party.
Kem Sokha, the NRP’s deputy president, said the
party was holding back the candidates’ list in anticipation of election
reforms urgently needed to ensure that the July 28 polls were free and
He said Hun Sen’s aides may have given the prime minister
inaccurate information for him to make assumptions about a rift within
Contrary to Hun Sen’s claims, he said, there was no
internal dissent within his group and that it is “well-prepared” with
the list of candidates.
“Someone cheated [Hun Sen] because this
is a false report,” Kem Sokha told RFA’s Khmer Service, mocking the
prime minister for accepting “incorrect information from his
“We don't have any internal conflict,” he said.
NRP is led by exiled chief Sam Rainsy, who has been barred by the
Cambodian authorities from contesting the elections due to past
convictions which he says were politically motivated.
may have to lead the NRP against Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s
Party (CPP) in the elections if Sam Rainsy fails in his campaign to
return to contest the polls.
Kem Sokha said the party had
“reshuffled some candidates to make sure they are ready to compete with
CPP officials,” without elaborating.
He said the NRP was prepared
to submit its candidate list even by this weekend to the National
Election Committee (NEC), which organizes and manages all elections in
the country, if it agrees to adopt and implement poll reforms proposed
by various groups.
The NRP had been holding off also with the
hope that the NEC would accept calls from Cambodia’s opposition for more
transparency and to allow Sam Rainsy to participate in the election, he
The demands echo recommendations to Prime Minister Hun Sen
made earlier this year by U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in
Cambodia Surya Subedi, who has been accused by the government of siding
with the country’s political opposition and civil society.
The NEC maintains that it has acted in accordance with electoral laws and will not take any recommendations into consideration.
this week in Washington, Sam Rainsy asked Cambodian authorities to
postpone the national elections, citing inconsistencies in voter
registration and barring of the opposition to observe the ballot
Sam Rainsy has been living in self-imposed exile in
France since 2009, facing a total of 11 years in prison over a string of
convictions that critics contend are politically motivated.
Claims of division
Hun Sen earlier this week suggested that the NRP had been slow in submitting its candidate list due to an internal conflict.
He said its persistent calls for election reforms were a ploy to cover up its internal divisions.
“They said they haven’t submitted their candidate list because they’re waiting for the NEC to reform,” Hun Sen said.
don't lie. [The NRP] simply can't agree on candidate lists,” he said,
adding that the party was having “problems” with candidates in “certain
Hun Sen reaffirmed that the government would not delay the election or audit voting lists under any circumstances.
According to law, he said, national elections must take place every five years in the fourth week of July.
of Thursday, five political parties had registered with the NEC to
compete in the polls. The NEC has recognized and approved three of them,
including the CPP.
Local rights groups have charged that the NEC
is biased toward the CPP, and election watchdogs say voters are
intimidated into supporting the ruling party through restrictions on
freedom of expression, rights abuses, and land disputes.
week, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL)
and several human rights groups demanded that the NEC post a list of
voters for upcoming crucial elections in all villages and involve key
political parties in the supervision of the polling process.
expressed concern over the lack of transparency in preparations for the
polls along with what they felt was weak management in the selection of
ground election supervisors and the "poor quality" of the voters list.