Interior Minister Sar Kheng has warned the government could take legal action against former opposition leader Sam Rainsy and others involved in the launch of the new Cambodia National Rescue Movement.
“The important thing is that we have to see whether the movement is legal or illegal,” Mr Kheng told reporters yesterday on the sidelines of the Transport Ministry’s annual conference.
“If it is illegal, the law will run its course.”
On Saturday, former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy said in a tweet that the CNRM, launched on Saturday, would provide a new structure that nobody could harm or dissolve.
CNRM members include Mr Rainsy, his wife Saumura Tioulong, and two former deputy presidents of the CNRP, Eang Chhay Eang and Mu Sochua.
In a statement at the weekend, the group demanded the release of jailed former CNRP leader Kem Sokha and other political prisoners.
Mr Rainsy, who lives in exile in France and is currently visiting the United States, yesterday discussed the creation of the CNRM at a forum in Texas.
He said the ruling CPP had persecuted the now dissolved CNRP, from the most senior members to grass-roots level commune councillors.
“CNRM will be organised as a secret network, like in past struggles against Vietnamese invasions into Cambodia,” Mr Rainsy said, adding the movement would infiltrate along liberated parts of Cambodia’s border.
“We will organise a network to go deep into Cambodia’s territory, provoking the public, students, workers and farmers,” he said.
Mr Rainsy also said the CNRM would pave the way for the CNRP to contest the July general election.
The Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November at the request of the Interior Ministry following complaints filed by the royalist Funcinpec Party and the Cambodia Youth Party in the wake of CNRP leader Mr Sokha’s arrest on treason charges.
The court also banned 118 senior CNRP members from politics for five years.
Former CNRP lawmaker Mao Monyvann said he would not back the CNRM since it was created abroad and was unlikely to bring benefits to the country.
“My opinion is that we don’t need any movement because we have the CNRP,” Mr Monyvann said.
“It is a danger because it has not registered in the country,” Mr Monyvann said when asked by a reporter if he would join the movement.
Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak called the new movement “rebels” and said they would not be allowed to operate along the border of Cambodia.
“We won’t allow it to happen. If they try, they will face the law,” Gen Sopheak said.
“The leaders are convicts so anyone who joins this movement will be an outlaw.”
“The movement also shows a split in the former CNRP, between Kem Sokha’s side and Sam Rainsy’s supporters,” he added.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the CNRM was an illegal organisation and would be dealt with under the law.
He echoed the fact the movement showed infighting between former CNRP members.
“I hope they will not get support in helping the former CNRP join the election,” Mr Eysan said.