5th Funcinpec Official Shifts To Opposition

Continuing the stream of royalist party officials defecting to the Sam Rainsy Party, Funcinpec Secretary of State Ahmad Yahya announced on Tuesday his imminent departure from Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s royalists.

Ahmad Yahya, secretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, is the fifth sen­ior Funcinpec official to the shift allegiance to the opposition ahead of the July 27 general elections.

Kieng Vang, former Funcinpec Interior Ministry sec­retary of state, joined the opposition last month and said his decision was due to flagging confidence in the leadership of Prince Ranariddh.

Kieng Vang was the first high-ranking Interior Ministry official to publicly jump to the Sam Rainsy Party. He was shortly after stripped of his position, a punishment Ahmad Yahya said was likely to be meted out to him.

“I already informed the party that I will leave and join the election as SRP,” Ahmad Yahya said by telephone.

Ahmad Yahya declined to comment on his reason for leaving the royalist party until a news conference scheduled for this morning at the opposition headquarters in Phnom Penh.

However, the former royalist official did say he will stand for the Sam Rainsy Party in Kompong Cham province in the elections.

Ahmad Yahya’s defection lends mounting support to months of speculation that more than a doz­en senior royalists will join the op­po­sition party before the general elections.

Several royalist officials said on Tuesday they were unaware of Ahmad Yahya’s defection and declined to comment.

Earlier this month, however, the Funcinpec leadership reportedly sent letters to several of their high-ranking members requesting written confirmation that they intended to stay in the party for the next election, party members said.

In January three high-ranking Funcinpec members defected to the opposition—a shift of political alliance that also was blamed on disillusionment with the royalist party leadership.

(Additional reporting Thet Sambath)

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