PHNOM PENH (AFP) - The son of former Cambodian leader Lon Nol, a military general who toppled the country's government in 1970, has launched his own political party ahead of general elections next year.
The Khmer Republican Party under Lon Rith, a 47 year-old US citizen, hopes to align itself with smaller parties under a general platform of alleviating poverty and improving health services, the party's general secretary Nhean Preash said.
"It's time for us to start," he said. "It's time for people to vote for the Khmer Republican Party."
Lon Rith is currently in the United States trying to drum up support for his party, Nhean Preash said, adding that he did not think the party would suffer because of its association with his father's government.
The US-backed Lon Nol regime ousted then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1970, but fell to the Khmer Rouge after five years of vicious civil war.
During his time in power, Lon Nol became increasingly erratic, relying heavily on mystics for guidance and brutally suppressing his opponents.
His administration was plagued by corruption and had little support from the public. Lon Nol fled to the United States as the Khmer Rouge seized power and died there in 1985.
"We will not ignore history, but we believe the Cambodian people don't want to be reminded about it. We will learn to work together from now on and forget the past," Nhean Preash said.
But he added: "We will not make a republic of Cambodia."
The 2008 general elections are widely expected to be dominated by Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which has been steadily consolidating its power.
A coalition government agreement with the royalist Funcinpec party was dismantled last year, and critics claim Hun Sen has silenced any viable political opposition.