Former CNRP Lawmaker Son Chhay Joins Candlelight Party

Son Chhay, a prominent former opposition politician, on March 1 announced he was joining the Candlelight Party. Photo from Facebook of Son Chhay

Of the two parties that created the CNRP, only the Candlelight Party remains active and is increasingly attracting big names from the outlawed former opposition

PHNOM PENH--After refusing to join any political party, Son Chhay, a prominent former opposition politician, on March 1 announced he was joining the Candlelight Party, a party where he had sought refuge after the government’s dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in 2017.

“The Candlelight Party is a party that I, as well as many of my compatriots, have actively participated in and supported because it is a party that properly serves and protects the Cambodian people. I would like to call on all my compatriots to join and support the Candlelight Party,” Chhay, a former CNRP lawmaker, said.

Cambodianess could not reach Chhay for comment, but Thach Setha, spokesperson for the Candlelight Party, confirmed that Chhay’s statement was true.

“We have not considered giving him a position [in the party],” Setha said. “We will meet soon to decide what position to give him.”

Chhay is one of more than 100 members of the CNRP who lost his political rights and was banned from politics by the Supreme Court for five years in 2017.

As of 2022, some 30 former CNRP politicians, including Chhay, have requested political rehabilitation from the government, but since having their political rights restored by the ruling party, the former opposition party has not reunited.

Some have gone on to form their own parties, others have joined existing parties. Notable former CNRP figures such as Pol Horm and Ou Chanrath went on to form the Cambodian Reform Party, with Horm as president and Chanrath as a senior official.

Meanwhile, the Candlelight Party has resumed its activities in the run-up to the June 2022 commune elections and has been active in mobilizing its supporters and erecting party banners under the guidance of Teav Vannul, the party’s chairman. Prominent unionist Rong Chhun, freshly released from prison after making critical remarks about the government’s demarcation of the Vietnamese border, has also voiced his support for the Candlelight Party.

The Candle Light Party changed its name from the Sam Rainsy Party, eponymously founded by Sam Rainsy, which was merged with the Human Rights Party, founded by Kem Sokha, to form the CNRP in 2012. After the CNRP was formed, both parties were abandoned, but following the CNRP’s dissolution and Sokha and Rainsy’s public falling out, only the Candlelight Party has reemerged while the Human Rights Party remains silent.

“My mind was born, I have lit candles to save our nation,” is a quote attributed to Rainsy which formed the name of the party.

The 5th commune election will be held on June 5, 2022 while the date for the 7th national election in 2023 has not been set yet.

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