Amid his ongoing trial over a treason charge, former opposition leader Kem Sokha has committed to not fleeing the country, calling instead for national reconciliation among Khmers.
However, a spokesman for ruling Cambodian People’s Party yesterday blasted Sokha’s statement, saying he was “paying lip service” and his statement does not reflect the true situation in the Kingdom.
Since a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen early last month, Sokha has met with several foreign diplomats who have welcomed the meeting between the two rivals.
They include the ambassadors of the European Union, Germany, France, Australia, Sweden, the United States, Japan, United Kingdom and chargé d’affaires of Switzerland Carin Salerno.
Observers and officials from both sides also voiced their appreciation over their meeting.
Yesterday, Allison Stewart, the outgoing Chargé d’affaires of the Embassy of Canada, also met with Sokha at his house in Phnom Penh.
In a statement, Sokha said that during the meeting he discussed the relationship and cooperation between the two nations and its people.
“In particular, I would like to thank the Cambodian people who still support my stance of ‘non-violence, patience, national reconciliation, not provoking conflict, non-revenge and not considering any Khmer as an enemy and especially the universal values of human rights,” he said.
In another recent statement, Sokha said he wants to see Cambodia have real peace, stability and prosperity for all Cambodians.
“I have no reason to destroy or bring others in to destroy or support anyone who wishes to destroy Cambodia, which is the only refuge for my life,” he said. “Destroying Cambodia is like destroying my home.”
He said he also cannot accept any form of foreign aggression against Cambodia and supports the protection of the national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
“I will never abandon or flee Cambodia, which is my only homeland,” he said.
However, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said yesterday that national reconciliation can happen only after Sokha’s treason trial verdict becomes final.
He said the CPP’s government did not take any revenge against former opposition party members and their cases were purely legal implementation against their wrongdoing.
“He [Sokha] colluded with a foreign nation and attempted to overthrow the government,” he said. “We are implementing the principle of democracy and rule of law.”
Mr Eysan yesterday also blamed former members of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party for insults against the CPP, which resulted in the so-called “culture of dialogue” being destroyed.
The culture of dialogue began in 2014 when then CNRP president Sam Rainsy and Mr Hun Sen reached an agreement to end the opposition’s boycott of the National Assembly following the 2013 election, which the CNRP would not recognise as legitimate.
It continued into 2015 when the two leaders and their families had dinner together and posed for selfies used on social media. But the short-lived dialogue broke down months later.
“The CNRP was the one who destroyed the joint agreement between the two parties, as well as the culture of dialogue,” Mr Eysan said. “Samdech Techo Hun Sen has tried to compromise with them many times, such as through a dinner meeting and joining them for Angkor Sonkranta  in Siem Reap province.”
“But after the meeting, they [CNRP] started to attack the CPP from behind, which caused the culture of dialogue to die,” he added.
Sokha is charged with “conspiracy with foreign powers” and his trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court began in early January. However, it was suspended amid the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Mr Eysan believes Sokha’s trial will resume soon despite COVID-19 as the Ministry of Justice last month launched a six-month campaign to resolve a backlog of court cases across the country.
“We cannot provide any political concession because we are implanting the rule of law. If we forgive them [opposition figures], other prisoners would ask for the same,” he said.