PHNOM PENH Cambodia's interior ministry on Wednesday told the main opposition party its leader had been elected illegally and it must change its campaign slogan ahead of local elections.
Rivals and human rights groups accuse Prime Minister Hun Sen of unfair manoeuvring to keep his three-decade-old grip on power at a general election next year for which the local ballot in June will be a springboard.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) chose Kem Sokha as its new leader this month after his predecessor, Sam Rainsy, resigned in the face of a possible ban on the party if he had stayed on.
An interior ministry official told the opposition party that its leadership election had breached an internal party rule which required an 18-month waiting period.
"The congress was illegal," Prak Sam Oeun told reporters following the meeting with CNRP's representatives on Wednesday. He did not say what action it would take if the party leader is not changed.
The party's deputy president, Eng Chhay Eang, rejected any suggestion of a change and said "this is a private matter".
But the party agreed to stop using a local election slogan that the interior ministry branded unconstitutional. It had promised to "replace commune chiefs who serve the political party with ones who serve the people."
(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)