Admirers Rush To Pay Birthday Tributes to PM

CPP and Sam Rainsy Party officials claimed on Monday that both high- and low-ranking Funcinpec mem­bers have approached their parties in the hope of jumping ship.

Government spokesman and In­for­mation Minister Khieu Kan­har­ith declined on Monday to say who or how many Funcinpec officials had approached the CPP about the possibility of defecting, but said that those who broached the issue held titles equal to his own.

“There are a number of Funcin­pec officials who approached [the CPP]. I myself was approached,” Khieu Kanharith said, adding that so far, none of the Funcinpec officials have been accepted.

SRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang claimed that potential Funcinpec def­ectors have also contacted his party, but that they have been lower-level Funcinpec members and supporters. Funcinpec of­fi­cials and lawmakers reacted with resignation to the claims.

“Members who want to walk out, it is their right,” said Prince Sis­o­wath Sirirath.

Funcinpec lawmaker Ly Thuch ag­reed, saying members were “free to make a move.”

“I feel there is trouble for Funcin­pec ahead,” he said, adding that Nhiek Bun Chhay, the party’s new secretary-general, was working to unite Funcinpec.

Funcinpec Rural Development Min­ister Lu Laysreng said the de­fec­tions were few and that they would not harm the party.

“Right now it’s just a little thing. I don’t think lots will leave,” he said.

Lu Laysreng also took issue with Nhiek Bun Chhay, stating that in­stead of ingratiating himself with Prime Minister Hun Sen, he ought to be working to strengthen the par­ty.

On Monday, Nhiek Bun Chhay made a surprise donation of 100 wheel­chairs to the National Para­lym­pic Committee, of which Hun Sen is president.

“The Funcinpec party is poor. It is inappropriate,” Lu Laysreng said of the wheel­chair donation.

Nhiek Bun Chhay could not be reach­ed for comment.







By Chhim Sopheark

The Cambodia Daily

Apparently it’s not Prime Minis­ter Hun Sen’s 55th birthday today, but that hasn’t stopped a bevy of po­li­ticians, including senior Funcin­pec members, government officials, businessmen and military chiefs, from printing their best wishes to the premier on the date long considered the day of his birth.

In the week leading up to today, Khmer-language newspapers have been stuffed with full-color ads, some filling an entire broadsheet page, wishing the prime minister all the best for the year ahead.

Hun Sen’s age, however, is a bit of a mystery. On April 4, 2004, he announced that he was in fact a year and four months younger than the public had long thought, and announced that his true date of birth was not April 4, 1951, the year of the rabbit, but Aug 5, 1952, the year of the dragon.

He said he had misreported his date of birth when he joined the anti-Lon Nol resistance in 1970, and in his biography, “Hun Sen, Strong­man of Cambodia,” blamed the me­dia for continuing the error.

Whether he is 55 or about four months shy of 54, tributes have poured in to lo­cal newspapers, which traditionally rake in a tidy ad­vertising profit from Hun Sen’s high-profile well-wish­ers.

“So far we haven’t totaled the in­come from the congratulations ads …usually, during Samdech’s birthday we earn more income than other months,” said Pen Samith­thy, editor-in-chief of the country’s best-selling Rasmei Kampuchea Daily.

Some people booked ads a month in advance, Pen Samiththy said and were willing to fork out $1,800 for a full-color page and be­­tween $800 and $900 for a black-and-white one. “So it’s a lot of money,” he added.

Khieu Navy, editor of Kampu­chea Thmei, also reported a bump­er crop of Hun Sen birthday ads.

Though advertisers had a choice of photos of the premier to choose from, some preferred to use their own shots, particularly pictures in which they are seen with Hun Sen, Khieu Navy said. “It is not wrong that the country’s leaders congratulate each other,” he added.


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