F’pec Backs Nhiek Bun Chhay’s Comments

Second Deputy Senate Presi­dent Nhiek Bun Chhay received a solid vote of support on Thurs­day from senior Funcinpec politicians following his recent criticism of the governmental failings of its coalition partner, the CPP.

Last weekend, Nhiek Bun Chhay blasted the CPP over endemic corruption in official circles, inability to resolve border issues, mounting foreign debt and the growing gap between rich and poor.

It was the first direct attack in almost four years by a senior Fun­cinpec official on the CPP, its more powerful government partner.

“What Nhiek Bun Chhay is saying is a view of how he sees things,” Funcinpec co-Minister of Defense Prince Sisowath Sirirath said on Thursday.

Nhiek Bun Chhay’s comments were not intended to split the current coalition, but to voice Funcin­pec’s concern over particular political issues, Prince Sirirath said.

“I totally share his feelings on this,” he said.

Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh said he approved of the points raised by Nhiek Bun Chhay during his trip to Battambang province last week, in which he distributed aid to poor party members.

“I support Nhiek Bun Chhay’s speech. He has the right to ex­press himself because he is the representative of the people,” Prince Sirivudh said, adding that it did not mark a rift in the coalition.

“[Nhiek Bun Chhay’s] ideas do not damage or split the parties in the coalition. What he said is for [Cambodian] development.”

Prince Sirivudh said the relationship between the CPP and Funcinpec was like a marriage and vowed the bloody events of 1997—when troops loyal to then-second Prime Minister Hun Sen ousted then-first Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh—would not be repeated.

“A husband and wife always have problems, and when the wife is concerned with something she will raise it with her husband,” Prince Sirivudh said.

“I think most of [Nhiek Bun Chhay’s] comments are correct. We are a free country we can criticize,” said Funcinpec Minister of Information Lu Laysreng.

Nhiek Bun Chhay not only has the support of the royalist party but also has strong support among Cambodian people, Lu Laysreng said.

“We criticize just to make the coalition stronger, not criticize to destroy the coalition,” he said.

Funcinpec Minister of Wo­men’s Affairs Mu Sochua also said Nhiek Bun Chhay has “100 percent support” from the party where he is respected by both grassroots supporters and top leaders.

“He questions and we question why there is such a widening gap between rich and poor. This is a very legitimate question,” Mu Sochua said.

However, Nhiek Bun Chhay’s comments have infuriated the CPP, according to sources who claim the Funcinpec senator has already been warned to keep his criticism to himself.

CPP government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said on Thurs­day he would not comment on Nhiek Bun Chhay’s statements, as they have only been reported through the media. “I will meet [Nhiek Bun Chhay] personally,” Khieu Kan­harith said, adding that he will then report the outcome to Hun Sen.

(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara)


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