Opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha announced Thursday that the CNRP will comply with an edict handed down last month that bans political parties from criticizing each other during the two-week campaign period for the May 18 council elections, which starts Friday.
The National Election Committee (NEC) on April 12 released a ruling prohibiting parties from insulting each other or raising “the shocking events of the past” during the election campaign. It also ruled that parties would be prevented from setting up permanent campaign bases.
Speaking at CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh after a morning spent leading workers and supporters in marches, Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Sokha condemned the edict, but said they would follow it in order to campaign.
“In this campaign, we will not attack each other,” Mr. Rainsy said. “We want Cambodians to wake up and join together as a nation to solve the problems of the situation in the country.”
“This is not a protest to demand that Hun Sen step down, we want only to show our policies. We don’t have any problems between the parties, this is about problems with the country,” Mr. Rainsy added.
The NEC’s April 12 edict came shortly after Mr. Rainsy’s an*nounce*ment in late March that the CNRP would use the official two-week campaign period, which ends May 16, to relaunch mass pro*tests to demand Prime Min*ister Hun Sen resign or call a new election.
Protests have been banned since January, when the government violently repressed the CNRP’s last round of demonstrations, which peaked with about 50,000 supporters marching to demand Mr. Hun Sen stand down.
At the press conference, Mr. Sokha said that the party would have to give up its plans to occupy Freedom Park.
“This morning I looked at Free*dom Park, and the view was like a prison,” Mr. Sokha explained. “The CPP has changed Freedom Park into a dark prison that is stronger than Prey Sar prison. The CNRP will build one more Freedom Park near there instead. We need an*other one.”
In the May 18 vote, commune councilors around the country will vote in elections for the administrative councils for the districts they fall under, as well as for their overall province or municipality.
Senior CPP officials could not be reached Thursday for news of the CPP’s plans for the election campaign.
Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Sokha will today travel to Kandal province’s Koh Thom district, which lies adjacent to the Vietnam border, before returning to Phnom Penh at about 4 p.m. to lead their first march of the campaign.
In the next few days, Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Sokha will also go to Prey Veng, Kompong Cham, Thbong Khmum and Kratie provinces. In total, they will campaign in Phnom Penh and 15 of the country’s 24 provinces.
“It is a meaningless election if we cannot spread our message,” Mr. Rainsy said Thursday.
(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)
odom@cambodiadaily.com
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