Cambodia opposition leader resigns for ‘sake of party’

1486827872886864200PHNOM PENH: Cambodia opposition leader resigns for ‘sake of party’

PHNOM PENH: The self-exiled leader of Cambodia’s opposition party said Saturday he would resign his post, a shock blow to a movement struggling to unseat the country’s authoritarian premier.
Sam Rainsy, who has led the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) since its creation in 2012 and has spent over a year in France to avoid several lawsuits, announced his resignation from the party on Twitter and Facebook.
The sudden move casts doubt over a party that poses the only viable challenge to strongman Hun Sen’s 32-year rule in a general poll scheduled for 2018.

“I resign as CNRP leader for the sake of the party. In all circumstances I cherish and uphold the CNRP’s ideals in my heart,” wrote the 67-year-old, who has been a major force in Cambodian politics for decades.
His resignation comes shortly after Hun Sen proposed amending political party laws to bar convicts from leadership positions — a clear threat to Rainsy, who has long been his top foe and the target of his political machinations.
The opposition leader has not visited Cambodia since 2015, when he fled to France to avoid a two-year jail term for defamation, which his supporters say was politically-motivated.
In December, a Phnom Penh court handed him a five-year prison sentence over a post on his Facebook page — a conviction that made any imminent return from exile even more unlikely.
Hun Sen also lodged a one-million-dollar defamation lawsuit against Rainsy last month and threatened to seize the CNRP’s headquarters if he wins the case.
The party’s spokesman Yim Sovann told AFP he had no other information about Rainsy’s decision to step down on Saturday, saying only that it was motivated by “personal reasons.”
Rainsy’s deputy, Kem Sokha, who has been serving as acting leader, is expected to guide the party as it prepares for local commune elections in June.

source AFP

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