The ruling CPP has officially accepted longtime human rights monitor Chhay Thy as a candidate to stand in June’s commune elections, though he intends to keep his NGO job until the end of the month in possible violation of the law.
Mr. Thy has spent the past several years speaking out against the policies and practices of the CPP-led government as the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc in Ratnakkiri.
He surprised many last week by announcing his plans to run as a local candidate in the province for the ruling party in the coming commune elections, tendering his resignation on Thursday.
The CPP’s Nhem Sam Oeun, a deputy provincial governor, said on Sunday during a press conference at provincial CPP headquarters that the party had officially endorsed Mr. Thy as a candidate.
“We have accepted him as a member of the Cambodian People’s Party, and he was selected as a commune candidate for the upcoming commune elections,” he said.
The NGO law requires that nongovernmental groups such as Adhoc remain politically neutral.
But Mr. Thy, contacted after the press conference, which he attended in a CPP shirt, said he would only leave his post with Adhoc on January 30 and insisted that there was no legal conflict.
“I did nothing wrong because I already resigned from Adhoc, and I spoke as a politician, not for Adhoc,” he said.
He also continued to defend his decision to seek political office with the CPP rather than the opposition CNRP, a choice that caught many by surprise.
“Journalists asked me why I joined the CPP. I told them I joined the CPP because this party has changed and reformed a lot, and this party has started to be concerned about the people’s living standards,” he said. “The journalists also asked me why I did not join the CNRP. I told them I don’t like this party because we have seen that this party has many internal disputes.”
Mr. Thy also accused the opposition, which controls only one commune in Ratanakkiri, of having achieved little for the province’s residents and of appointing recent arrivals to party posts instead of longtime locals. He also cited acting CNRP President Kem Sokha’s recent sex scandal—an alleged affair with a hairdresser, which he has never admitted to—as a black eye for the party.
Many Cambodians suspect the CPP of leaking audio tapes that sparked the government’s investigation into the alleged affair for possible corruption.
Mr. Thy made no mention of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s own alleged affair with actress Piseth Pilika, who was gunned down in 1999 in a case that has never been solved. The French weekly L’Express later ran an article based on diary entries written by the actress apparently recounting her yearslong relationship with the premier, the hundreds of thousands of dollars he gifted to her and the discovery of the affair by Mr. Hun Sen’s wife, Bun Rany.
Teav Vannol, who heads the CNRP’s working group in Ratanakkiri, on Sunday acknowledged that the opposition had not always had the best people representing the party in the province, but denied Mr. Thy’s claims of any internal rifts.
He said he expected Mr. Thy to run in the one commune the opposition currently controls in the province—Pate commune, in O’yadaw district.
“We welcome the ruling party to use a person from Adhoc to be the commune candidate to compete with us, but I hope the CNRP will win again,” he said.
Adhoc spokesman Sam Chankea, however, said Mr. Thy was wrong to stay on with Adhoc after publicly declaring his loyalty to the CPP and that the NGO would review his employment today.
“I think the press conference with Chhay Thy today was a big mistake and Adhoc believes his behavior was not legal,” he said. “We will send the case to the administrative committee to make a decision on Monday.”