Chea Sim, president of the CPP and the Senate, left the country Wednesday morning for Bangkok, escorted by National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy, Chea Sim’s cabinet chief said.
The elderly CPP official is seeking medical treatment there, Chea Son said.
“Hok Lundy escorted Chea Sim because [Hok Lundy] can help organize [security and medical help] in Bangkok well, and he has more friends there for Chea Sim’s needs,” Chea Son said.
Heng Samrin, CPP honorary president, said the visit does not reflect political problems within the CPP as it reportedly did the last time the police commissioner escorted the CPP president out of the country.
“There is no split amongst the CPP leadership,” he said. “Usually Hok Lundy follows CPP leaders as a bodyguard.”
But for political observers, the abrupt departure sparked immediate speculation.
Chea Sim, 73, made a similar trip to Bangkok on the morning of July 13, when armed police surrounded the Senate compound, and Chea Sim was flown to Thailand under police escort.
CPP officials at the time said the trip was for medical treatment, but on Aug 24, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said that violent clashes reminiscent of the 1997 factional fighting were narrowly averted the night before Chea Sim’s departure.
Chea Sim and Prime Minister Hun Sen attended a Central Committee meeting on Tuesday to discuss laws for the elections of village and commune chiefs, Chea Soth, a CPP Central Committee member said Wednesday.
“We had…no political dispute in the meeting,” Chea Soth said.
Chea Vannath of the Center for Social Development said Chea Sim may have requested a police escort, but his departure may also be intended as a message that he is under the control of another faction in the government.
The power struggle within the government has likely intensified of late due to its increased size, Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said. Some factions in the CPP are likely frustrated about sharing power with Funcinpec, he added.
“There’s not necessarily any serious problem,” he said. “They know how to manage themselves…. They’ve ruled the country a long time.”
(Additional reporting by William Shaw)
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