Popular radio host Mam Sonando was re-elected as president of the Beehive Social Democratic Party yesterday after returning to politics in a bid to contest the upcoming national election in July.
Mr Sonando said yesterday after a party congress that he decided to return to politics to contest the upcoming election in July because no big parties could compete with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party after the November dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
“I have joined politics again because there is no CNRP, so no other political parties can compete with the CPP,” Mr Sonando said. “It is my obligation to rejoin politics. I am holding the democratic flag in Cambodia after the CNRP was dissolved.”
“I hope that the people will not support other parties, just mine,” he added.
Mr Sonando said he is the only democratic, popular leader left standing in the country after former CNRP leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha were sidelined.
Mr Rainsy lives in exile to avoid jail terms in Cambodia from a slew of court cases, including one levelled against him by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
After Mr Rainsy stepped down as the CNRP’s leader due to his convictions, his replacement Mr Sokha was later jailed on treason charges for allegedly conspiring with a foreign country to topple the government through a colour revolution.
Mr Sonando has also faced lawsuits and served jail time, most recently in 2012 for a “secessionist” plot that saw him sentenced to 20 years in prison. The charge was later converted to a lesser offence and he was freed after eight months.
When asked about his conviction being a possible impediment to being a party president according to the Law on Political Parties, Mr Sonando said, “It is not a problem because the prisoner has already served his sentence”.
Phat Sikan, the former party president, said yesterday that more than 500 members joined the BSDP congress in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district and re-elected Mr Sonando as president.
Mr Sonando had stepped down seven months ago after his party’s poor performance at the commune polls.
“I am satisfied to vote for Mam Sonando as our party president because he is qualified and popular,” Mr Sikan said. “He says that the people support him as the party president, and I will continue to work with him and the party.”
Mr Sikan noted that he and Heang Kim Sroeun, who resigned as vice president in 2015, were appointed as vice presidents of the party.
Mr Sikan said some members who resigned from the party have come back thanks to Mr Sonando’s return to politics.
“Because of increasing supporters, I hope we will gain some seats in the national election,” Mr Sikan said. “To strengthen democracy in Cambodia, please everyone living inside and outside the country support our party.”
“Our party does not support any other party and is not a puppet of any party,” he added.
Mr Sonando created the BSDP in 1997, but dissolved it a year later after it failed to win any seats. He revived the party in 2015.
After the 2013 national election, Mr Sonando participated in mass protests calling for a higher minimum wage for garment workers and for Mr Hun Sen to stand down and allow a re-election to take place because the CNRP refused to accept the ballot results as legitimate.