The Ministry of Interior has agreed in principle to allow former CNRP officials not banned from politics to create the Cambodian Nation Love Party, but the ministry has yet to approve the new party’s creation. Its founding members are required to fulfil all requirements set by ministry officials.
If finally approved, CNLP would be one of three parties created by former CNRP members. In an exclusive interview with Khmer Times reporter Sun Mesa, Khoeuy Sinoeun, a founding member of CNLP, claims his party would be a real challenger to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
KT: Can you tell us about the status of the Cambodian Nation Love Party (CNLP)? What is the current procedure after the Ministry of Interior gave its agreement?
Mr Sinoeun: The Ministry has allowed us to use the party’s name. For the next step, according to the law on political parties, we need to collect thumbprints from 4,000 people who support our new party. We are also required to submit our party’s structure, term and condition and platforms to the Ministry of Interior. Our eight founding members will meet this weekend or early next week to discuss the preparation for these materials and on how to collect the 4,000 thumbprints.
KT: Are you optimistic that you will be able to collect such a number of thumbprints?
Mr Sinoeun: Yes, that will be because CNLP is the successor of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), where 18 of our members were from. People from 10 provinces will attend our conference in Phnom Penh. So 4,000 are not a big number for us.
KT: So far, two parties have been created by former CNRP members: Khmer Conservative Party led by Real Camerin and Khmer Will Party by Kong Korm. Why did your group have to create another party?
Mr Sinoeun: After reclaiming political rights, our founding members have spent about one year going into the fields and listening to advise and suggestions by the people and other CNRP activists. They asked us to create a new party for us and other activists to continue political engagements legally. Another reason is that we have seen a dramatic decline in the opposition’s voices against the ruling party. There is no opposition party that is actually opposing the government today. On a district level, there are not many activists who speak out their opinions to the government to demand something from it. In order to do that, we need a new legal and political body to represent the people. We also create CNLP for the sake of democracy and the sense of national rescue; otherwise, democratic space in Cambodia will become smaller and smaller, eventually leading to a one-party system.
KT: You say no party is opposing the government, but how about the other 19 parties, including the two created by your former colleagues? Can you comment on them?
Mr Sinoeun: All those parties are opposition parties, but the realms of their political activities are not as big as that of the former CNRP. For CNLP, once we enter the field, we will like to show large-scale activities. One of our missions is to build constructive opposition against the government’s inactiveness to protect the people’s interests. However, our party and other parties created by our former colleagues have the same democratic goal and one day, we may work together on a single platform. But for now, we would like to create something new with our ideas and willingness.
KT: Former senior CNRP members created three different parties. Does it show polarisation in the dissolved party?
Mr Sinoeun: Creating multiple parties does not prove polarisation or division within the CNRP. Members have different ideas and methods but the common goal is to promote the country’s democracy.
KT: Speaking of democracy, Cambodia has been criticised by Western countries and international organisations for its election without the biggest opposition party as well as the issue of human rights. What can you say about that?
Mr Sinoeun: We are already a democratic country, and the votes each party receives depends on its platforms and activities. The criticisms are neither right nor wrong. It depends on the truth of the activities that they [Western countries] have discovered. We are not banned from forming new political parties, and some points are still unacceptable.
KT: In the press conference organised by CNLP, the eight founding members claimed that none of them is the party’s president yet they are represented by Mr Chiv Cata. Why is that?
Mr Sinoeun: In our mind, we have the individual who will fill in positions in our party’s structure, but for now, we ask Mr Cata to represent the group temporarily. After we finish drafting the party’s terms and conditions and hold the party’s congress, we could select one of us or probably someone from outside to be the party’s president.
KT: Do you have any potential candidate to lead the party? Could it be Kem Sokha?
Mr Sinoeun: We cannot tell you about that now. All I can say is that we already have some people in our mind. We will announce who the president is in our party’s first congress. The date of the congress depends on how long it will take us to finish the registration process. Maybe it takes within 4 or 5 months.
KT: As a former CNRP lawmaker, what can you say about the leadership of Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy?
Mr Sinoeun: Their leaderships were acceptable. Both of them were paving the way for other pro-democratic politicians. However, we do not support Mr Sam Rainsy’s call for people’s power to overthrow the government last year, which incited the people to be divided. We do not support a regime change, which is not stated in the constitution.
KT: Do you see CNLP as a strong challenger to Cambodian People’s Party led by Prime Minister Hun Sen?
Mr Sinoeun: Yes, we see ourselves as the main challenger because we stand on the ground of real democracy for the Cambodian people. We have our own policies, which we will announce in our congress. We will be the party that unites the people’s votes.