By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – In November of 2017, the Supreme Court of Cambodia dissolved the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the main opposition party to Prime Minister’s Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).  Now, the former leader of the CNRP is asking people to boycott the upcoming elections in protest of the party’s ban.  The current leader of the CNRP, Kem Sokha, was arrested in late 2017 on charges of treason.

Former CNRP leader, Sam Rainsy (front left) with Kem Sokha, the current leader who is in jail facing charges of treason. Photo courtesy of Tang Chhin Sothy.

Following the ban on the CNRP several countries have cut aid, imposed travel bans, and condemn the actions.  Many nations like Japan are demanding free and fair elections in Cambodia.  The CPP is predicted to win the next election almost completely unopposed.

Sam Rainsy, the former CNRP leader, recently tweeted, “I call on all my Cambodian fellow compatriots who believe in democracy to boycott the  July 29, 2018 elections if the CNRP is not allowed to participate.”  Rainsy has been extremely critical of the current Prime Minister, Hun Sen, for several years now; it is not clear whether his tweet reflects his personal beliefs or those of CNRP.

A spokesperson of the CPP said of Rainsy’s tweet, “The CNRP is already dead by the Supreme Court’s decision.  Even if Sam Rainsy appeals until he dies, people no longer believe him.”

Many of the former members of the CNRP and its factions have found exile in the United States.  It is here that they continue to mobilize and speak on Cambodian politics.  One professor of diplomacy says, “Is the spirit of the CNRP still alive? Of course it’s still alive.”  It is just continuing its work elsewhere until its reconstituted.

For more information please visit:

Reuters – Cambodia’s former opposition leader calls for election boycott – 8 April 2018

South China Morning Post – Cambodia’s former opposition leader Sam Rainsy calls for election boycott if his dissolved party remains excluded – 8 April 2018

Voice of America – Cambodia’s Former Opposition Leader Calls for Election Boycott – 8 April 2018

Asia Times – Can Cambodia’s fractured opposition survive? – 5 April 2018 

Author: Katherine Hewitt

Katherine Hewitt is a first year Masters of Arts in International Affairs candidate in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. She is pursuing a concentration in Peace, Security, and Conflict. Her interests lie in ethnic conflicts, particularly in the Post-Soviet Sphere. She expects to graduate in December 2018.