About 200 opposition party members defected to the ruling CPP at a ceremony in Kampot province on Monday, according to CPP-aligned officials.
Opposition officials, however, yesterday denied the claims, saying the majority of the people who attended the ceremony were non-aligned villagers who had been given free CPP T-shirts and hats.
Kampot provincial governor Khoy Khun Hour said 200 members of the SRP, the Human Rights Party and Funcinpec from Kampot province’s Chhuk district had defected to the CPP because they did not believe their respective political leaders.
“We accepted about 200 at a meeting on Aug 30 to join with the Cambodian Peoples Party,” he said, adding that a further 800 were planning on defecting in the coming weeks. “They used to support those parties, but now they have joined with us.”
Mr Khun Hour said the CPP’s assistance with a local land dispute had helped sway the defectors’ opinions. “We helped to provide them with the land, but the opposition did not help them for a long time,” he said. “They told our authorities they had lost hope with the SRP leader and wanted to develop the country with the CPP leaders.”
Nai Pena, CPP lawmaker for Kampot province, also claimed that about 200 opposition members had defected to his party, including about 100 members of the SRP.
SRP provincial chief Sim Kosal, however, said the so-called defections were a tactic used by the CPP to confuse the public. “The people who attended the meeting were normal villagers and were not members of the SRP,” Mr Kosal said.
“They attended the event because they are poor and needed food…. Then they were provided with a CPP cap and T-shirt during the meeting.”
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that only “two or three” SRP members actually defected on Monday, and that they had only done so after being pressured by the CPP.
HRP Secretary-General Nhem Ponharith said that after talking to his commune and district activists, he did not believe that his party members were among those who allegedly joined the CPP on Monday.
(Additional reporting by Mark Worley)