Exiled former opposition leader Sam Rainsy has been appointed as the acting president of the dissolved CNRP pending the conclusion of the treason case against Kem Sokha.
The CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court last year following the arrest of Mr Sokha.
On Sunday during a world conference attended by about 400 former opposition supporters in the state of Georgia in the United States, Mr Rainsy was appointed acting president, despite the conference not being supported by Mr Sokha.
Members who attended the conference believed that Mr Sokha is currently unable to make party decisions as he is currently under court supervision.
During the conference, members stressed that the party was in need of a strategy following concerns raised after it was dissolved. They then appointed Mr Rainsy as acting president until Mr Sokha is free and able to lead the party.
Mr Rainsy accepted the decision to become acting president, promising that he will restore the CNRP as an opposition party in Cambodia.
“We must re-process the party. The CNRP is under deadlock without a leader and the members did not know who they could trust and lead them,” Mr Rainsy told Voice of America. “Today, the CNRP is restored and we make the party structural again.”
The conference was attended by hundreds of party representatives from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand.
However, some former opposition supporters overseas boycotted the conference and issued statements criticising the gathering.
Mr Sokha himself through his lawyer on Sunday reiterated that he does not support the conference, nor any decision made at it.
“Kem Sokha still has the same stance – he does not recognise nor support any decision stemming from the conference,” Mr Sokha’s lawyer Chan Chen said.
Kem Monovithya, Mr Sokha’s daughter, said on Twitter that the appointment of Mr Rainsy was a violation of CNRP regulations.
Muth Chantha, Mr Sokha’s former chief of cabinet, yesterday took to Facebook to state opposition to the appointment of Mr Rainsy.
“Those who joined the conference are not eligible to request or to appoint a CNRP acting president,” Mr Chanta said. “Any decision or request made during the conference is just an idea of a group of people. The party’s permanent committee shall not consider it.”
Sophal Ear, professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles, said that he believes the CNRP had to find a new way forward while charges linger over Mr Sokha.
“Kem Sokha is not allowed to even have visitors,” Mr Ear said. “The party is between a rock and a hard place, and mind you, not of its own doing.”