Old faces in a new party

Sixty per­cent of KWP’s can­di­date list are for­mer CNRP mem­bers

The Phnom Penh Post - - FRONT PAGE - Ben Sokhean

THE ma­jor­ity of can­di­dates be­ing fielded by the Kh­mer Will Party (KWP) in the July 29 na­tional elec­tions are from the now-dis­solved Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party (CNRP), ac­cord­ing to a candi- date list seen by The Post on Tues­day.

The KWP, led by Kong Monika, has crit­i­cised calls to boy­cott the polls and said that it hopes to get the sup­port of three mil­lion op­po­si­tion vot­ers. Monika is the son of a CNRP top ad­viser, Kong Korm,

Lead­ers of the party claimed that its 261 el­i­gi­ble can­di­dates were gath­ered in just 14 days af­ter the group was for­mally created on April 30. Sixty per­cent of the can­di­dates held some po­si­tion within the CNRP.

Hing Yoeun, the for­mer deputy gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Se­nate, is cur­rently the KWP’s deputy pres­i­dent and set to be a can­di­date for law­maker in Prey Veng prov­ince.

Tol Prasath, the for­mer sec­re­tary of the Kan­dal pro­vin­cial CNRP ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, is the fledg­ing party’s deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral and run­ning as a law­maker in Kan­dal prov­ince.

Phal Sithon, for­merly a com­mune chief in the cap­i­tal’s Meanchey district, has be­come the KWP’s deputy sec­re­tarygen­eral and plans to be on the bal­lot in Phnom Penh.

The party’s deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral told The Post on

Tues­day at its head­quar­ters in the cap­i­tal that there would be no KWP had the CNRP not been dis­solved by the court.

He said the 14-day re­cruit­ment drive af­ter get­ting ap­proval from the Min­istry of In­te­rior proved es­pe­cially fruit­ful in se­cur­ing can­di­dates as po­ten­tial law­mak­ers.

“We ar­ranged ev­ery­thing in just 14 days, and they [new mem­bers] are from com­mune coun­cils, the for­mer CNRP youth move­ment, com­mune chiefs and coun­cil mem­bers. But most of them are ac­tivists. If we look at the list, they make up 60 per­cent of our can­di­dates,” he said.

Un­able to con­firm the to­tal num­ber of party mem­bers, Sithon claimed the ma­jor­ity were CNRP vot­ers.

“Kong Monika is the son of Kong Korm. We know that this [party head­quar­ters] used to be­long to the for­mer party led by Sam Rainsy, but now it is the Kh­mer Will Party’s, start­ing from scratch,” he said.

Not­ing the set­back caused by the dis­so­lu­tion of the larg- est vi­able op­po­si­tion party, Sithon still urged Cam­bo­di­ans to cast their votes, stress­ing that a boy­cott will only ben­e­fit the rul­ing CPP.

“If they say that sleep­ing at home will help the op­po­si­tion to win, they can sleep and let the CPP con­trol power for an­other five years . . . If the peo­ple who used to vote for the CNRP sleep at home, it [CPP] will win an­other five years,” he said.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Monika told The Post that his party is ready to cam­paign and has be­gan in­stalling bill­boards, es­pe­cially in Phnom Penh and Kan­dal prov­ince.

He said his party has a “bro­ker group” na­tion­wide to in­tro­duce it and gather for­mer CNRP mem­bers for sup­port.

“We have ex­tended our work in other prov­inces, dis­tricts, and com­munes, and se­lected, in speak­ing lan­guage, ‘bro­kers’ to in­tro­duce the KWP’s ob­jec­tives and goals. At the same time, we are pre­par­ing a struc­ture for fur­ther ex­pan­sion,” he said.

Monika said fi­nan­cial re­stric­tions and boy­cott calls are the ma­jor ob­sta­cles his party faces. But com­ing from a fam­ily full of for­mer CNRP law­mak­ers, he says he has big am­bi­tions for the KWP.

“Demo­cratic prin­ci­ples say we can have change if we so wish it, and we vote to change the leader . . . [boy­cotts] are like plac­ing the power on a plate for the rul­ing party.

“We do not want such a sit­u­a­tion. We need to make changes through the elec­tion to have pos­i­tive changes in Cam­bo­dia. That’s why we are en­cour­ag­ing those who want pos­i­tive change to vote on July 29,” he said.

Ou Chan­rath, a for­mer CNRP law­maker, said the KWP has be­come pop­u­lar be­cause of Kong Korm’s rep­u­ta­tion. He said most op­po­si­tion politi­cians join­ing its ranks were from the lo­cal level. But they could still be counted on to bring change.

How­ever Hang Vi­tou, who heads the Youth An­a­lyst Group, is scep­ti­cal. He said the KWP could not be suc­cess­ful in such a short time. “I don’t think this party can re­place the CNRP in this elec­tions or the next. But they will get some seats for sure,” he said.

But Monika was firm in his op­ti­mism. “The KWP was not es­tab­lished to dec­o­rate the garden of democ­racy. We are the party created to com­pete for power and we want change which has been the goal of Cam­bo­di­ans since 2013,” he said.

TWIT­TER

KWP Pres­i­dent Kong Monika, son of for­mer CNRP ad­viser Kong Korm.

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