Cambodia opposition says determined to run in 2018 elections

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) – Cambodia’s main opposition party said yesterday it is determined to participate in elections next year despite the arrest of the party’s leader for alleged treason.

The comments by Son Chhay, a senior member of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, came during the party’s first news conference since Kem Sokha’s September 3 arrest in Phnom Penh.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power for more than three decades, has threatened to dissolve the party if it gets involved in legal proceedings against Kem Sokha, who police arrested on the basis of videos from several years ago showing him at a seminar where he spoke about receiving advice from US pro-democracy groups.

The arrest is widely viewed as a partisan political effort to cripple the opposition ahead of the 2018 vote.

Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmakers, Son Chhay, centre left, and Mu Sochua, centre right, lead a press conference at the party headquarters, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, yesterday. CNRP yesterday held a press conference, saying they remain determined to participate in the upcoming general election in July 2018. – AP

Although the party has called for Kem Sokha’s release, Son Chhay said there were no plans to organise protests. Kem Sokha could face up to 30 years in prison.

His predecessor as party leader, Sam Rainsy, was forced to resign his post and party membership under an earlier threat of having the party dissolved. He now lives in exile.

“I do hope that before the election in 2018, there will be a (political) solution between all of us to provide a good environment and ensure that the election will be conducted freely and fairly,” Son Chhay said.