Cambodian opposition leader voted out of top job


Phnom Penh (dpa) – Opposition politician Kem Sokha was removed as vice president of Cambodia’s National Assembly Friday days after members of his party were beaten outside the parliament building.

Kem Sokha, the second in command of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), was ousted from the parliamentary post in a vote boycotted by his party.

“Kem Sokha was elected by an absolute majority of the lawmakers. He was removed in the same way. The door he entered is the door [through which] he leaves now,” said Cambodian People’s Party spokesman and lawmaker Sok Ehsan.

An outspoken figure, Kem Sokha is known for criticising the government’s often close relationship with Vietnam – a divisive issue – and clashing loudly and publicly with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Kem Sokha’s removal was the latest act in an ongoing rivalry between the political parties ahead of elections in 2017, according to analyst Ou Virak, founder of the think tank Future Forum.

“Here you have the situation where the opposition tries their best to maintain visibility to keep momentum and you have a ruling party that is doing their best to stop that momentum, and pull a few tricks out of their sleeve,” Ou Virak said.

The opposition has received unprecedented support from voters in recent years, nearly winning the 2013 election and creating insecurity in the Cambodian People’s Party, which has ruled since 1998, according to Ou Virak.

In recent weeks, Hun Sen has whipped up anger at the opposition party by comparing it to the Khmer Rouge – the radical Maoist party that ruled Cambodia from 1975-1979 – and also said its electoral victory would lead to civil war, according to the Cambodia Daily.

The anger of political opponents at the CNRP and its leaders turned violent on Monday, when protesters beat two opposition members of parliament, Kong Sophea and Nhay Chamraoen, as they attempted to leave parliament.

A video of the attack showed one of the members being pulled from the back of his car in broad daylight and kicked repeatedly as spectators look on. The same politician can later be seen bloody and unconscious on the ground.