The Khmer United Party has announced its support for and joined the activity of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement, which was formed by former opposition leader Sam Rainsy after the CNRP was dissolved.
Kuch Ly, vice president and spokesman for KUP, which was formed by him and the brother of assassinated political analyst Kem Ley, sent a letter of support to Mr Rainsy and former CNRP vice president Mu Sochua on Tuesday.
“For Khmer national interests and Khmer people, I, Kuch Ly, on behalf of the Khmer United Party, announce support for and join the activity of CNRM led by Sam Rainsy,” the letter said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has labeled the CNRM a “terrorist” group and warned former opposition members that formed it not to show their faces in Cambodia.
“I would like to send a message – do not come to Asia,” he said recently. “If you try to be a terrorist, I will do my best to arrest you.”
The CNRM was launched in the US in January by Mr Rainsy in response to the Supreme Court’s November dissolution of the CNRP as a way to help the former opposition party rejoin the upcoming national election.
Mr Rainsy, who lives in self-imposed exile to avoid jail, urged people to protest against the government, called on the armed forces to not shoot protesters and appealed to the international community to cut aid.
Mr Rainsy stepped down as leader of the CNRP in February 2017 because of his criminal history. The CNRP was dissolved after Mr Rainsy’s successor Kem Sokha was jailed on treason charges for allegedly conspiring with a foreign country to topple the government.
In his letter, Mr Ly called on all supporters and activists of the dissolved CNRP inside and outside the country to join hands with KUP and the CNRM to demand that Mr Hun Sen’s government solve the country’s problems peacefully.
“First, it needs to restore freedom to Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha. Second, it needs to restore freedom again to Meach Sovannara. Third, it needs to restore freedom again to all prisoners of conscience,” the letter said.
KUP is led by Mr Ly and Kem Rithysith, the younger brother of Mr Ley, who was killed in 2016.
Mr Rithysith applied to the Ministry of Interior to create the proposed Kem Ley Party last month. However, the name was rejected by the ministry because it was against the recently amended Law on Political Parties to use a person’s name within a party name.
Mr Ly said yesterday that he was unconcerned about his security after issuing the letter.
“The Khmer United Party dares to announce its support to Sam Rainsy’s movement. I want to confirm my staunch stance that we are not afraid of death,” Mr Ly said.
Mr Ly said that he joined hands with Mr Rainsy in 1995 and participated in protests in the 1990s.
“As I have worked with the CNRP, we have to struggle for the freedom of our leaders,” Mr Ly said. “I think that if the government accuses me of wrongdoing, it is not correct because I did not appeal for people to protest against the leadership of Mr Hun Sen.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that the ministry now plans to monitor Mr Ly’s activities.
“We will continue to monitor their activity,” Mr Sopheak said, noting that Mr Ly’s letter may have just been a political ploy to draw attention to his new party.
Kirth Chantharith, spokesman for the National Police, could not be reached for comment yesterday but in the past has said he would crack down on any CNRM operations within the country.