Defections From Opposition Party Continue

Welcoming the defection of the seventh Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian to Funcinpec on Wednes­day, royalist party officials said the flight of opposition members was garnering renewed international support for Funcinpec.

Opposition parliamentarian Sam Sundoeun publicly an­nounced his defection Wednes­day at a news conference at Fun­cinpec headquarters. The former opposition party representative for Kandal province, Sam Sun­doeun used the news conference to criticize his former party bosses for ruling the Sam Rainsy Party in a dictatorial fashion.

“The current leadership is not controlled by the collective leadership, but by [Sam Rainsy’s wife] Tioulong Saumura and [party Secretary-General] Eng Chhay Eang,” Sam Sundoeun said.

He also said that Sam Rainsy was being directed in his decisions, and the party should change its name to the “Tioulong Saumura-Eng Chhay Eang Party.”

“My departure is a stimulus to urge Sam Rainsy to reform the leadership within the party,” Sam Sundoeun said.

While denouncements of both the royalist and opposition leaders have become a routine part of the defection fad, Funcinpec parliamentarian Ok Socheat put a new spin on the political maneuvering, saying the US government is now looking on the royalists with new respect.

“America stopped believing Fun­­cinpec lately…but since the Sam Rainsy members have come, the Americans have changed their minds,” he said. “The Americans always check with me if anyone new from Sam Rainsy has come.”

Continuing the opposition’s muted response to the defections, Sam Rainsy declined to comment in detail on the latest departure other than to say his was a democratic party and members are free to come and go.

Sam Rainsy said the defections were the result of certain party members not being granted choice candidacy positions for the forthcoming general election.

Sam Sundoeun had put his name to a statement just last week pledging loyalty to the opposition party, Sam Rainsy added.

“I am firm in my criteria. The SRP wants to promote a new generation of leaders. If we want the leadership of the country to change, we have to renew our party leadership,” he said.

Sam Rainsy also said Funcin­pec’s promotion of the defections was “artificial and meaningless,” as Cambodia’s electorate is not interested in the “political games” being hatched in Phnom Penh.

“The grass roots people don’t care,” Sam Rainsy said.

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