Dressed in matching shirts and baseball caps, thousands of Sam Rainsy Party faithful turned up at SRP headquarters in Phnom Penh over the weekend to vote on candidates for the most senior positions within the party.
Saturday and Sunday’s votes were to be the culmination of months of intra-party elections held nationwide, from the village to the provincial levels, SRP officials said.
Unsurprisingly, Sam Rainsy was re-elected president of the party that bears his name, but there was a change in the secretary-general position with Battambang province lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang being voted back into the position he resigned from in December 2005.
Eng Chhay Eang said at the time that he had left the post partly because of health issues, but also because of a “small” gambling habit that he feared political opponents would use to discredit the party.
Interviewed by telephone on Sunday, Eng Chhay Eang downplayed the gambling issue.
“It was my personal problem, it should not have an effect on the party. I do not have a mistress or gamble in casinos—I don’t hide my activities,” he said. “I won’t let the party and the people down,” he added.
Mu Sochua, who had been holding the secretary-general post, was elected first deputy secretary-general, and Cambodian-American Teav Vanol took the second deputy slot.
Sam Rainsy told the crowd that, in the name of eliminating divisiveness within the party, a new rule had been established: For important decisions, the secretary-general now has to reach a consensus with his two deputies.
Delegates also elected the party’s permanent committee and board of directors.
Sam Rainsy spoke with confidence Sunday morning that his party would win next year’s national election, telling the delegates on hand, “The SRP will have 62 [National Assembly] seats; we will lead the country.”
He also took the opportunity to attack the ruling CPP, taking them to task for the Vietnam-made markers currently being placed along the Vietnam-Cambodia border.
“The ruling party said that our neighbor paid for the border markers,” he said. “We do not need markers, we need land…. Cambodia has lost precious land.”
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that Sam Rainsy’s remarks were unwarranted and having been governor of the border province of Prey Veng during the 1980s, he is positive that Cambodia did not lose land to Vietnam.
He also said that Sam Rainsy lacks the experience and qualifications to take command of the government.
“He cannot lead the country like Prime Minister Hun Sen,” he added.