Former Prime Minister Pen Sovann, who served as premier in 1981 during the People’s Republic of Kampuchea until being removed for criticizing the Vietnamese presence in Cambodia, said he would like to make up with his old party—the ruling CPP.
A founder of the United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea, the group formed in 1978 to topple the Khmer Rouge and which would later become the CPP, 72-year-old Pen Sovann said he would throw his support behind Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP if the party conducted some reforms.
Pen Sovann has most recently held the position of disciplinary committee director of the Human Rights Party, which has suffered from the recent defections of several senior HRP members to the CPP.
“I want to serve the people; I don’t join the CPP for political power,” Pen Sovann said by telephone Sunday, adding that it would be good to “reunite with the CPP.”
Top on the list of reforms required of the CPP, he said, was an independent judiciary, and for the country to be free of interference from any foreign power.
“The government belongs to the people, and they must be loyal to the country. If the CPP loves the people and its territory, the CPP must change,” he said.
Though he spent 10 years imprisoned in Hanoi after being removed as prime minister and was denounced by the PRK as mentally unsound following his rebuke to Vietnam, Pen Sovann said he is on good terms with the CPP leadership and that Hun Sen had once bought him a car and given him $5,000.
CPP officials contacted Sunday said they thought it better if Pen Sovann didn’t defect to their party.
It is up to the party to make any decision, said CPP National Assembly President Heng Samrin, but he added, “I think it is good if he stays outside politics and we can be friends.”
“There is no benefit to the CPP if he defects,” Heng Samrin said. “He hasn’t received any government position outside the CPP; that is why he wants to join us.”
HRP Secretary-General Yem Ponhearith said he hadn’t received notice of Pen Sovann’s intention.