Funcinpec senior minister and lawmaker Ly Thuch has resigned as a member of the royalist party and joined Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP, Funcinpec officials said Thursday.
Funcinpec spokesman Nouv Sovathero said that Ly Thuch, a member of Funcinpec’s board of directors, submitted a letter of resignation to party President Keo Puth Rasmey before Khmer New Year.
Ly Thuch explained in the letter that he was leaving Funcinpec because he is “too busy with the government,” Nouv Sovathero said. “We are sad to lose a young leader, but we cannot prevent him from leaving,” he said.
Ly Thuch did not answer repeated calls for comment on Thursday.
Lu Laysreng, first deputy president of Funcinpec, confirmed Thursday that Ly Thuch has joined the CPP.
The move will not affect Funcinpec’s relationship with the CPP, though officials or lawmakers who quit their political parties automatically lose their position in the National Assembly or the government, Lu Laysreng said.
Lu Laysreng, however, said he was concerned that Ly Thuch will remain a senior minister, a position that should be reserved for a Funcinpec member.
Nguon Nhel, CPP National Assembly deputy president, said he was unaware of Ly Thuch’s decision but that the CPP welcomes defectors from other parties.
“We don’t convince the coalition partner’s members to join with the CPP but the CPP opens its doors to all parties,” he said.
Mar Sophal, monitoring coordinator with the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that Ly Thuch will likely maintain a high rank and that other Funcinpec lawmakers who want to retain a seat in the National Assembly may follow suit and join the CPP ahead of the 2008 elections. “It’s better to move to the stronger party to keep [one’s] position,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Tomei)