Prey Veng province – As Khmer Will Party candidate Hing Yoeun campaigned here yesterday, he expressed concern that his party’s goal to bring former CNRP supporters into its fold is proving more difficult than imagined due to a call made by a former CNRP leader to boycott the election.
Mr Yoeun, a KWP lawmaker candidate for Prey Veng province, was joined yesterday by two other party members as they drove a single car through Preah Sdach district while campaigning to convince former opposition CNRP members and supporters to join the KWP.
Mr Yoeun said the task has proven difficult because former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy has called for an election boycott.
“I am not angry with Mr Rainsy; I am dissatisfied – what he’s saying only benefits himself,” he said. “If no one votes, all of the ballots cast will go to the CPP because only their supporters will vote.”
The KWP is one among many parties positioning itself as the replacement of CNRP.
Earlier this year, Mr Yoeun joined hands with Kong Monika, the son of a former high-ranking CNRP official, to create the KWP in the wake of the opposition’s dissolution by the Supreme Court in November. Even the KWP logo was designed similarly to the CNRP’s.
“I think that Mr Rainsy doesn’t want this party to be created,” said Mr Yoeun, who first joined Mr Rainsy’s Khmer National Party as a member in 1995. “He doesn’t want us to be successful, he only wants to control a party and earn the benefits.”
Mr Yoeun said that Mr Rainsy’s election boycott call has left former CNRP commune councillors and senior party members disillusioned.
“They are indifferent, as if they do not care about the same issues as us,” Mr Yoeun said. “I visited and met with lower-ranking supporters in order to put up KWP banners, but they were already installing signs of other political parties.”
“I am trying to explain to them the negative effects of boycotting the election,” he added.
Mr Yoeun said he always supported the agenda of the opposition and he will continue to vie for support from former CNRP members despite the difficulties faced thus far.
The Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP after its leader Kem Sokha was jailed on treason charges in September.
“The CNRP was accused of trying to incite a colour revolution, so we couldn’t do anything on their behalf because members were facing prison sentences,” Mr Yoeun said. “So we formed a new party to avoid these troubles.”
Mr Yoeun added that if his party were to win the election, he would free Mr Sokha and other jailed former CNRP members.
Mr Yoeun said that his party is expecting to win a sizeable number of National Assembly seats regardless of campaign setbacks in Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces due to a lack of human resources.
Driving his car in Preah Sdach district, Mr Yoeun acknowledged that the KWP is not a main contender.
“We hope that we can get seats; that’s why we are doing our best to seek support,” he said. “However, it’s difficult for us to attract former CNRP members to work with us because they are tired of politics and would rather listen to Mr Rainsy.”
With two speakers mounted on the roof of his vehicle and the party’s insignia emblazoned on the sides, Mr Yoeun stopped in Prey Veng city to introduce the party and its policies to residents in the area.
Mr Yoeun told them that he’s a former CNRP member and explained why he formed the new party.
“I told people that I am formerly CNRP, but not to gain popularity,” he said. “I told them because I was really working there and I want to tell voters that we formed a new party.”
Mr Yoeun noted that the party could not yet organise big rallies and marches due to budget constraints.
A former CNRP commune councillor in the province who refused to be named also said that he will boycott the election and not join the KWP, which he accused of taking advantage of the CNRP’s dissolution.
“I represent more than 1,000 CNRP supporters and I must be an example to others,” he said. “It doesn’t affect me if others want to vote but it’s a no for me.”
Mot Phalla, former Siem Reap CNRP provincial head, said that he will not be joining the KWP.
“The formation of a new party is the will of an individual, not a decision made by CNRP leaders,” Mr Phalla said over the phone. “I will boycott the election in accordance to the order by Mr Rainsy.”