Cambodia’s Grandfather of Politics Bows Out

The revamped Son Sann faction of the split BLDP ended its national congress Saturday with a new leader, a new name and a new logo.

BLDP lawmaker Son Soubert took over from his father, elder statesman Son Sann, as president of a party reborn after years of infighting with another BLDP faction. The party now will fight the election as the Son Sann Party.

The octogenarian politician formally resigned as president so he can take up his seat on the as-yet unformed Constitutional Council, for which he must relinquish all political offices. In a final speech, Son Sann called on the international community—specifically the Friends of Cambodia, a group including Japan and the US—to have more input in the general elections.

“These elections would require that…the Friends of Cambo­dia…take over the supervision of the whole process—from the inception, through the preparation and implementation of the coming general election,” Son Sann told congress delegates.

He may have left the political arena, but the former prime minister’s agenda still will hold sway, Son Soubert said. The party hopes to capitalize on the popula­rity of the man known as the “grandfather” of Cambodian politics.

“Most people from the pro­vinces don’t know about the BLDP, they know about grandfather Son Sann,” Son Soubert said at the Congress. “When we de­cided to rename our party, many people asked us to name it after him.”

Five hundred people from around the country gathered at the Bopha Tep II nightclub to vote for a new-look party and to welcome home Son Sann, who returned to Cambodia last week after a year-long absence.

Min Pov, 40, a party worker from Kandal province, said she was inspired by Son Sann’s un­tainted image.

“I know as a member of the older generation that Son Sann is a clean man. So I like him. We all want a good leader,” she said.

Between 1946 and 1968, Son Sann was a member of 17 different governments, including a stint as prime minister in 1967 and 1968 under the Sangkum Re­astr Ni­yum regime. He founded the Khmer People’s National Lib­eration Front (KPNLF) in Oct­ober 1979 and fought the Viet­namese-backed government in a coalition that included the Khmer Rouge and royalist factions. The KPNLF eventually evolved into the modern-day BLDP.

That party split into two groups three years ago, with both sides fighting to retain the BLDP name.

Last month, the faction aligned with Information Minister Ieng Mouly won the battle in an Ap­peals Court decision. Son Sann supporters have pledged to take the fight all the way to the Su­preme Court.

The party had to change its name in the meantime to register for the elections. It also changed its logo from an elephant’s head to Son Sann’s portrait.

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