Foreign-based members of the dissolved opposition CNRP have launched a movement to demand the release of its detained leader and to call for free and fair elections and possibly protests.
The Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Party leader Kem Sokha was arrested in September and is accused of trying to overthrow the government with American help and of espionage – charges he denies and says are politically motivated ahead of the general election in July.
Former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy said in a tweet yesterday that the Cambodia National Rescue Movement, launched on Saturday, would provide a new structure that nobody could harm or dissolve.
“The CNRM can launch appeals to the people to organise peaceful protests, to workers to go on strike and to the armed forces to side with the people,” Mr Rainsy tweeted, along with a statement.
Mr Rainsy, who lives in exile in France, did not say the CNRM was calling for any protests at this point.
It was not immediately clear how widespread the backing for the new movement was among former CNRP members.
According to the statement, CNRM members included Mr Rainsy, his wife Saumura Tioulong, and two former deputy presidents of the CNRP, Eang Chhay Eang and Mu Sochua.
“We invite our compatriots from all walks of life, regardless of their political affiliation, to join the CNRM in order to protect the will of the Cambodian people through free, fair and inclusive elections,” the statement said.
They said in the statement that they also demanded the release of Mr Sokha and other prisoners of conscience.
Huy Vannak, undersecretary of state at the Interior Ministry, called the movement “desperate” and said that Mr Rainsy was “a serial loser”.
“I advise the people on this list about the spirit of the Cambodian Supreme Court’s decision on the prohibition of political rights and to avoid taking illegal or guerrilla acts leading to the harm of innocents and the destruction of Cambodians,” he said.
The Supreme Court’s decision to dissolve the CNRP also banned more than 118 of its senior members from involvement in politics ahead of the general election on July 29.
However, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the creation of the CNRM was in fact an attempt to undermine democracy and the happiness of Cambodian people. “The new movement is just using old mechanisms to try and destroy democracy,” Mr Eysan said.
“This group of former opposition figures from a party that was dissolved are rebels that have repeatedly violated the law.”