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Published: Mon, February 13, 2017
World | By Ernestine Jimenez

Cambodian opposition leader steps down for 'sake of the party'

Cambodian opposition leader steps down for 'sake of the party'

The letter details recent acts of political oppression by the Hun Sen government, including the politically-motivated criminal investigations and charges against the senior officials of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy speaks during a press conference in 2013.

"The resignation of Sam Rainsy from the party presidency and membership came after discussion with the leaders of the party, and he did so for the sake of the party, the nation and with great honor", Kem Sokha said in a posting on his Facebook page.

"As stated in the above objective, I would like to inform the permanent committee and steering committee directors about my decision, and consider the decision coming into force from the date of my signature", says the statement, signed on Saturday.

"Whatever my position in the party, I remain the symbol and embody the spirit of resistance to the autocratic and corrupt Hun Sen regime, and this is what matters in the minds of the Khmer people", he said.

"In all the circumstances I continue to cherish and to uphold the CNRP's ideals in my heart", he said.

The sudden move throws doubt over a party that poses the only major challenge to strongman Hun Sen's grip on power ahead of 2018 elections.

Mr. Rainsy's resignation appears to be an effort to make sure his own legal issues will not be used as a pretext to erase his party.

Executive members of Cambodia's beleaguered opposition party on Sunday accepted the resignation of Sam Rainsy, its charismatic leader, and named his deputy, Kem Sokha, acting chief until a party congress can be held.

Sam Rainsy has stayed overseas to avoid a two-year prison term on a defamation conviction he had believed was covered by a pardon.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann confirmed that Mr. Rainsy had resigned as the party's president but referred further questions to Mr. Rainsy, who could not be reached.

Mr Hun Sen earlier this month vowed to amend laws on political parties to keep convicts from holding leadership positions, among other rules.

Describing it as the "anti-Sam Rainsy law", he said it will have little impact on Cambodian politics.

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