by Mech Dara and Alex Willemyns / The Cambodia Daily
The personal assistant to CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha who on Saturday accused opposition leader Sam Rainsy of being involved in massive corruption was expelled from the opposition party Tuesday.
Lak Sopheap, a member of Cambodia’s opposition movement since Mr. Rainsy created the Khmer Nation Party in 1995, was expelled after a second meeting of the CNRP’s disciplinary committee.
“We have removed her from the CNRP and she has no role in the CNRP anymore,” said Ou Chanrith, a Kandal province lawmaker who chairs the committee.
“What she has done has affected the honor of our leaders and of the party…so the disciplinary committee has the right to fire her,” Mr. Chanrith said.
“What she says is always false and without facts, and [spreads] from one person to another, and this is not the first time she has done this,” he said.
“If she is unhappy with it, she can file a complaint to the permanent committee within seven days.”
Ms. Sopheap, speaking at a meeting of political commentator Kem Ley’s “Khmer for Khmer” political reform group in Phnom Penh on Saturday, accused Mr. Rainsy of illicitly receiving millions of dollars.
“On the 5th [of December], Mr. Kem Sokha criticized that from about $30 or $40 million, Mr. Sam Rainsy took $20 million,” she said at the time. “I cannot participate in a society that has leaders committing corruption.”
Ms. Sopheap later said that she was only recounting her memory of the CNRP meeting, and claimed she was not herself accusing Mr. Rainsy of any corruption.
At a press conference in front of the National Assembly on Tuesday, Ms. Sopheap said Mr. Sokha had, during the December 5 meeting, shocked her by referring to her as the source of his claim about Mr. Rainsy.
“A person has accused me of saying that Sam Rainsy took $40 million and kept $20 million; this is not true,” Ms. Sopheap said. “Kem Sokha raised this issue in the meeting and then put the blame on me.”
“The two of them played ball, and then shot the ball to me,” she said of Mr. Sokha and Mr. Rainsy. “I took the falling rock, and I cannot accept it.”
Ms. Sopheap went on to claim that Mr. Chanrith’s committee had no right to dismiss her because she is an elected member of the CNRP’s steering committee.
“According to the law, the disciplinary committee cannot fire me,” she said. “Since the steering committee was formed by the [CNRP’s] congress, only the congress can vote to fire steering committee members.”
Ms. Sopheap also said that the CNRP must convene the steering committee for a vote if it wants to revoke her party membership.
“For firing from the party, the [fate of the] candidate must be decided by the steering committee that has 123 members,” Ms. Sopheap said.
“This vote has to have a majority or two-thirds in order to dismiss me,” she added. “If this is done by Ou Chanrith signing to dismiss me, then he is a dictator.”
Mr. Chanrith said Ms. Sopheap was confused and that his committee has the right to expel steering committee members.
“What she raised is in her imagination, and there was nothing that violated the internal rules or statutes of the party,” he said. “We have sufficient rights to impose punishment upon all party members at all levels.”
Muth Chantha, chief of Mr. Sokha’s cabinet, said that despite the disciplinary committee’s decision, Ms. Sopheap would stay on as an assistant to Mr. Sokha—for now.
“Her appointment is still standing,” Mr. Chantha said.
“I spoke with the chairman of the disciplinary committee of the CNRP, and she still has seven days to appeal this decision,” he added.
“We are also waiting for the first vice president [Mr. Sokha] to return from Europe to discuss this.”