Chea Sim’s Stroke Not Likely To Affect CPP

Senior CPP officials said Tues­day that party President Chea Sim’s quick recovery from a minor stroke will likely avert a power struggle inside Cam­bodia’s ruling party, which has recently shown signs of infighting.

CPP Permanent Committee mem­ber Heng Samrin on Tues­day downplayed the effects of Chea Sim’s stroke, saying “We are worried about his health, but it is not serious.

“It is not affecting the [CPP] because he is getting better,” Heng Samrin said.

But some observers said Chea Sim’s stroke last week might allow Prime Minister Hun Sen to consolidate power within the party. Though he typically cooperates with other factions inside the CPP, Chea Sim has long played counterpoint to Hun Sen.

Though Chea Sim officially renounced communism in 1989 when the Vietnamese left Cam­bodia, he is still seen as a hard-liner, while Hun Sen is perceived as being slightly more moderate.

“There is a lot of tension that wouldn’t exist if Chea Sim was not around. Hun Sen could control the CPP more firmly without opposition from [Chea Sim],” said one Western diplomatic official.

National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said he spoke Tuesday morning with Chea Sim, who told him he felt better, though he will likely remain hospitalized in Thailand through the week.

Chea Sim, a 67-year-old father of six, blamed a blood clot in his spine for the stroke, the prince said. In the past he has suffered from high blood pressure and traveled outside Cambodia periodically for treatment.

Prince Ranariddh, who heads CPP’s coalition partner Fun­cinpec, acknowledged Chea Sim’s importance to the government’s royalist contingent.

“He is an important person in Cambodian politics. He has played a balancing role within his party,” the prince said. Funcinpec has reportedly been courting Chea Sim supporters in an at­tempt to seek political leverage against Hun Sen, who has dominated both party and national-level politics. With Chea Sim on the mend, the CPP appears to be closing its ranks—something the party is adept at doing in times of crisis, political observers say.

“The CPP is at its best when it is under threat…the CPP can be a model of unity,” the Western official said.

But Chea Sim’s illness may give Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, who is also co-minister of Interior, a large stake in CPP politics, according to the official.

“[Sar Kheng] could move up and demand the loyalty Chea Sim commanded,” the official said.

(Additional reporting by Seth Meixner)


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